"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Moose Became a Hospice Volunteer

On our visits to the hospice, I’ve heard a few patients tell Moose their life story. They tell him their regrets, favorite days and share their stories. If they cry, he lays his head on their belly, and moves his body in such a way that he’s not putting any pressure on their sore body parts. I’ve watched him stand on one foot, in an awkward position, just so he can lie next to someone as he’s slowing down his breathing.

That’s not how Moose’s story began.

When my husband, Cory, said he wanted to meet the homeless pit bull at the shelter, I thought it was a terrible idea. Moose was an emaciated dog at the Humane League of Lancaster County who barked a lot and jumped all around in his cage.

Still, my husband said there was something about him, and so we brought him home.

After a few months of training, Moose went from a humping machine to a well-behaved, fattened-up dog.

Then we noticed that he’d started picking up on intuitive nuances. For example, if someone were crying, he’d come up and lay his head in their lap. If you jumped because you were excited, he’d jump in unison with you. At mealtimes, he knew instinctively that he wasn’t to get near our food and instead would seat himself on the steps.

That made me think he would make a good therapy dog.

Moose and I went through a few months of training at KPETS, and when he graduated in November, I learned that he was one of 30 certified pit bull therapy dogs in the United States.

We began visiting nursing homes, and then domestic abuse shelters and The Clare House. I’ve watched children practice reading to him and I’ve seen lonely people light up when he walks in the room.

After intensive training, Moose and I became certified volunteers at Hospice of Lancaster County. It’s Moose’s job to go into Hospice so people can pet him as they’re dying. We know we can’t fix the situation – it’s just our job to be there to provide comfort.

Moose is a good friend to them. He doesn’t say much, he’s just there when someone needs him … when they want to talk to him.

Moose and Cory have been keynote speakers at the Humane League. They share our stories about how others can turn pit bulls into therapy dogs and begin to change the perception of the breed.

We’ve learned, since their last speech, that more people have volunteered to foster pits so they have a longer time to be adopted. This means that because they’re not anxious in the kennel, they won’t have to be put down as quickly. They even posted Moose on their website as a breed ambassador right after their posting on the top myths about pit bulls.

But that’s not all. Recently, the Humane League of Lancaster County has put on a program called “Pitties in the Park.” It’s a way for responsible pit bull owners to gather together to learn more about the breed and learn how they can inspire others to change their perception of the dogs.

We’ve learned that if enough people are inspired to show kindness and compassion toward animals, it makes our communities safer and more humane.

Moose is just one example of how to do that. There are a lot of other pit bulls who can make a difference, too.

Moose is a breed ambassador and he shows others that they have the power to change the perception of the breed while making a difference in the community – on a one-on-one level and block-by-block.

This dog is a gift to us. It’s our job to share this gift with others.

By Jasmine Grimm
Photos by Beth Cardwell Photography


  1. Thank you so much for sharing Moose's story! My Nugget just became a registered therapy dog (He's a golden retriever - original, I know) and I've been trying to think of different places we can visit in addition to the nursing homes he trained in. Hospice is especially dear to me as they provided just outstanding care and service as my grandmother was dying. I will look into doing this in our area!

  2. I love your post! It makes me really happy to see others trying their hardest to impove the pit bull image by being a therapy dog! I just got mine certified in August '10 and started visiting places in February.

    Check out my blog about pittie's therapy work! :)