I'm With Mojo

Mojo, a licensed therapy dog, dressed to bring smiles to everyone.

It started in early 2010 when my wife, Rosine, insisted I do something besides read the sports page and bond with the remote. There was an article in the paper inviting people to attend a volunteer orientation class given by the Berea Animal Rescue. It was strongly suggested I attend this class.

Well, I got hooked and a few months later, in April, five-year old “Matt” (due to his matted state) was brought into the shelter. I fell in love with the little guy. Rosine and I decided to foster him, renamed him Mojo (after an old Blues song, “Got My Mojo Working“) and took him home. A few days later, we became what is known as “Foster Failures” -  we decided he had to become a permanent family member.

Being new to the rescue scene, we hired a trainer to guide us through the first few months. Because of Mojo’s cheerful and laid-back nature, the trainer encouraged us to have him trained and tested for a Therapy Dog license.

Therapy Dogs International gave us names of facilities that would like a therapy dog visit. So far, we have over 600 visits recorded in the western suburbs! Most of these visits were in Alzheimer’s units. We discovered that Mojo, through his human grandmother, has a special bond with these very special patients.

A First

Naturally, many of our patients moved on to palliative or hospice care. Mojo and I decided to train to become volunteers with the Hospice of the Western Reserve. Mojo is the first West Side Pet Therapy Dog licensed by the Hospice of the Western Reserve. Our regular Wednesday visits to Ames Family House in Westlake are uplifting. The staff at Ames is like family. 

To see the smiles on the faces of patients (and the staff) when we - okay, when Mojo walks in is rewarding. Staff and patients alike make sure Mojo gets lots of belly rubs and ear scratches. We walk into individual rooms and the patients just smile and say, “Mojo’s here!”

Sometimes I have to remind them that I’m with Mojo. Makes me happy to see them happy. Mojo hops onto a bed or a lap and does what he does best: naps.

Sitting vigil with patients has been an experience I’ll never forget. Helping them and their families ease the transition from this life to the next can be heartbreaking, but at the same time knowing that Mojo and I are helping ease some of their anxiety is what it’s all about.

Through the Hospice, Mojo and I have been to several veteran pinning ceremonies, birthday celebrations, special dinners (the food at Ames is great) and, yes, funerals. The families often request our presence at the last farewell. Mojo has even been invited to a funeral mass and several church services. Thank goodness the little guy can nap anywhere!

Jim Tishman

Jim Tishman is a volunteer for the Hospice of the Western Reserve. He takes Mojo to visit hospice patients and veterans for end-of-life comfort and companionship, primarily in Rocky River, Fairview and Westlake communities. Jim and his wife Rosine live in Fairview Park.

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Volume 2, Issue 5, Posted 4:19 PM, 11.11.2014