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Insight/Report on Private Giving
Students Brighten Lives of Nursing Home Residents
It’s Saturday morning and CSU veterinary student Mike Morrow has arrived at the Blue Grouse Nursing Home with his cat Ziggy. The reception is warm as Morrow and Ziggy make the rounds, Morrow chatting and Ziggy soaking up ear rubs, soft strokes on his fur, and words of endearment. For residents of the home, a visit from Morrow and his cat is a chance to remember and relive some precious memories of their own companion animals, especially in a time and place in their lives when they are unable to have pets.
Morrow, a sophomore in the Professional Veterinary Medical Program, is the pet therapy coordinator for Students for Human-Animal Relationship Education (SHARE), one of many student organizations at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences involved in community outreach and education. SHARE volunteers--along with their behavior-certified cats, dogs and rabbits—visit Fort Collins area nursing homes twice a month, sharing some four-legged love with the residents.
“It really is a wonderful experience for our volunteers, their companion animals and for the people living in the homes,” said Morrow. “Our animals first are certified through behaviorists to ensure that the animals’ temperament and behavior is compatible with nursing home visits then it’s off to work. When we visit a home, we take the animals around and invite residents to pet them and chat with them. They don’t get to see animals very often, if at all, and they really enjoy just laying their hands on the animals, feeling their texture and softness. It makes them smile and adds to the quality of their life.”
Medical research has shown that the presence of pets in our lives can lower blood pressure, relieve depression, improve quality of life, and add to our longevity. For stroke victims, pet therapy helps in rehabilitation and improves the results of physical therapy. For Morrow, the smiles on the residents’ faces are all the proof he needs to know that what he and Ziggy are doing is making a difference.
Though an important component of their mission, nursing home visits are not the only way in which SHARE volunteers work to improve the world around them. The organization sponsors community events including public and student lectures. In February, SHARE brought Dr. Alan Beck, a nationally known expert in the human-animal bond, to the University for a series of public and student/faculty lectures. SHARE also is partnered with the Argus Institute for Families and Veterinary Medicine and is the task force and primary volunteer pool for the Colorado Pet Hospice Program. This newly introduced program brings veterinary students into client homes to provide care and support for ill animals, as well as emotional support for their owners. For Morrow, Pet Hospice provides another opportunity for veterinary students to connect to the larger community.
“It’s pretty wonderful to feel like you are making a difference in the lives of animals and the people who love them,” Morrow said. “For us, we not only enjoy helping, but SHARE provides relief from the pressures of school. SHARE helps us to see the bigger picture of the importance of our chosen profession, something that can get lost if you don’t get out of the vet school once in a while.”
SHARE is funded in part through a grant from the Colorado State University Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association. In addition, SHARE holds fundraisers such as pet Christmas stocking and ClayPaws sales to support its programs. For additional information about SHARE, contact club president Nicole Wilkerson at email@example.com.