Pet TherapyTails of Joy is a program used to provide psychological, emotional, and physiological support to hospice patients and their families. HKV recognizes the benefits of integrating traditional medicine with complementary medicine as a supportive service. We currently have 12 teams of specially trained dogs and their handlers available for visits. Each dog and handler has gone through a therapy dog certification program to make sure they are up for the job. One of those very special teams are Jillian and her black Shih tzu/yorkie mix Vinny.

For Jillian, she feels there is one family that stands out from the rest that she’s volunteered with during her time at HKV and that is the Guimond family from Kankakee Mrs. Guimond is a patient in HKV care and she lives at home with her husband Richard.

Upon their initial visit, Richard explained about a black poodle that they had named Mia. Mia originally started out as their son’s dog and when he enlisted in the military, Mia came to live with them. She quickly became a huge part of their family, even traveling with the couple across the country in their RV. The Guimond’s had seven wonderful years with Mia before she became ill and had to be put down. The loss devastated the couple and they decided then to not replace their cherished pet. When the offer was suggested to introduce a pet companion, they jumped at the chance.

“When I arrived the first day, Richard met me at the door, took Vinny out of my arms and left me standing on the porch,” Jillian remarked with a laugh, “I could tell immediately who the favorite was.”

While the relationship between Vinny and Mrs. Guimond didn’t immediately blossom, caretaker Richard, definitely always looked forward to his visit. “He just comes up on my lap and I rub him to sleep,” he explained. “He’s such a good boy.”

When asked what the most rewarding part of her volunteer position at HKV, Jillian explained, “I just love being able to bring these families so much joy. They are going through a very rough time in their lives and there is never a time when I walk through the door that Vinny doesn’t put a smile on their faces. Whether it’s a patient or family member, they all love him and those smiles are the best part.”