Volunteer Finds Unusual Task: Dogwalking

By Larry Kinneer, State of the Heart Hospice

When State of the Heart Hospice patient Doris Harmon was asked by a hospice social worker what would really make her happy and put her mind at peace, she quickly replied:  “Finding someone to walk my dog Sweetie Pie.”

And just when this seemed like an odd request to fill, along came a new State of the Heart Hospice volunteer who said he wasn’t sure what he could bring to hospice patients in his volunteering. It was a match made in heaven for Harmon, volunteer Jim Grogean, and Sweetie Pie. Each Saturday, Grogean, of Versailles, goes to Doris’ home in Bradford and takes Sweetie Pie for a 45 minute walk around the small town.

“I was shocked when I was told someone would walk her,” said Harmon who recently observed her 80th birthday. “She is the joy of my life and a great companion. She sleeps at the foot of my bed every night.”   Sweetie Pie, a Labrador cross, is somewhat “rambunctious,” Harmon admits, and has a high energy level.  Grogean agrees.
   
“For the first two blocks she is rearing to go,” he said, “then as we near home, she is anxious to get back to the house.”  Sweetie Pie is about nine months old.

Grogean, who works full time, said he had read about State of the Heart Hospice needing volunteers for many years. “Finally, I reached a point where I felt I had the time to volunteer,” he said. His father was a hospice patient at one time.

Pauline Faller, State of the Heart Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, added that Grogean had reservations about what he would be able to do to help. “But, as in many instances, there was that unusual need and Jim was there to fill that need. It is a perfect fit for the patient, her dog and for Jim.”

“When I decided to become a volunteer, walking a dog was the last thing I thought I would ever do,” Grogean said. “It was a bit of a surprise when Pauline asked me. But, I guess there is a first time for everything.”

He had another volunteer experience that he cherishes. “My first volunteering assignment was to visit a patient. While there I washed his dishes, dried them and put them away and gave him a glass of water before I left.”  It was a rewarding experience, he added.

Harmon said of Grogean, “He is a very thoughtful person. Having him walk Sweetie Pie gives me such piece of mind.”

Faller said that volunteers are always needed. “I encourage anyone who wants to volunteer but is unsure what they can offer to call me to talk about how they can help State of the Heart by volunteering.”  Volunteers can volunteer as much as they want and can choose what they would like to do. 

State of the Heart Hospice cares for families and patients in eastern Indiana and western Ohio who are confronting a life limiting illness. The hospice is a non-profit agency, with about 120 volunteers, and has more than 30 years of care to area communities.