Denise Bastanza, Faith and Sarah

Denise Bastanza, Faith and Sarah

Denise Bastanza wanted to become involved in pet therapy for quite some time when she saw an ad in 2010 for October Tails, Barnabas Health Hospice's annual fundraiser to benefit Paws for Patients. Paws for Patients, launched in 2009 by BHHPCC, pairs trained hospice volunteers, and their certified therapy dogs, with patients and families who request a pet therapy visit.

Ms. Bastanza immediately signed up her dogs, Faith and Sarah, mother-daughter Samoyeds, for October Tails and then enrolled in the Barnabas Health Hospice volunteer training program. Once she completed the program, the Verona Resident had Faith and Sarah certified by Bright and Beautiful Therapy Dogs.

One day a week, for the past year, Ms. Bastanza, and either Faith or Sarah (only one dog per handler allowed) visit patients being cared for by Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center – in private homes, in the hospital or in a nursing or assisted living facility.

"The best part of volunteering is interacting with the patients, families, and employees and giving them some comfort and happiness," says Ms. Bastanza, who has also directed the Verona/Cedar Grove Chorus for more than 12 years. "I love the program. It's awesome! The other residents and staff in the nursing home and hospital also love the dogs. "If I have time, I'll stay longer and visit with them," she adds. "And the dogs love it too. When I take out their special Paws for Patients collar and leash, they both get very excited."