Arizona Giving and Leading: Pet Connections

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When Hospice of the Valley patients need a little lift, they can turn to four-legged friends. Therapy teams make weekly or bi-weekly visits to homes and professional care settings. We’re not talking just dogs and cats. We’ll introduce you to Lilly, a 30-inch tall, 250-pound miniature horse, and Myrtle, the 107-year old patient who looks forward to her visits.

Ted Simons: In tonight's focus on "Arizona Giving and Leading," producer Christina Estes and photographer E.J. Hernandez show us how a Phoenix-based program is creating unique friendships.

(Sound on tape)

Christina Estes: Inside the chapel at the Good Samaritan Society's Peoria campus, Myrtle Clark is preparing for a special visitor.

Myrtle Clark: This is the only second time I saw her.

Christina Estes: Meet Myrtle's newest friend. At four years old, Lilly is much younger than Myrtle. At inches 30 inches tall, she's also much shorter, but the differences don't matter much.

Myrtle Clark: Yes! You're a sweet little thing!

Christina Estes: Lilly is part of "Pet Connection," a Hospice of the Valley program where teams visit nursing facilities and patients' homes.

Myrtle Clark: She's used to being around people.

Christina Estes: Burt Mortensen is Lilly's partner.

People ask me all the time did I train Lilly to do this? And, no, I didn't train her to do this. I think it's her calling in life, and I think she enjoys it.

Myrtle Clark: Yes, you are so -- oh! [ Laughter ]

Christina Estes: It's not just Lilly's personality that generates smiles. It's also what she wears.

Myrtle Clark: Those shoes, I can't get over! I love horses. I always did from little on. My dad had two horses always going around. And they were regular pets.

Ann Roseman: This brings them all the benefits and joys of pet companionship without the burdens of ownership.

Christina Estes: Ann Roseman plays matchmaker for patients and pets.

Ann Roseman: We want to make sure that all the animals visiting for us have lovely, even and predictable temperaments, even in unpredictable and random circumstances.

You are so soft! You're like a kitty! Look at that baby dance!

Christina Estes: Employees at Hospice of the Valley's Phoenix office also enjoy the benefits of pet therapy. Every month, pets like Snickers show up to spread joy and collect treats.

Yes, oh.

Let's go visit.

Christina Estes: Snickers and his partner, Ann Kendall, are among nearly therapy teams. They've been making weekly visits for a couple of years.

Ann Kendall: You go in to a group home or a palliative care setting and maybe someone's not having a very good day and once they see Snickers and you see that big grin or smile on their face of their reaction, they've forgotten their troubles for that few minutes that you're there with them. And that's what we're all about.

Ann Roseman: These are people sometimes that don't recognize their families anymore, but they'll know oh, it's Snickers day today. They'll know what that means.

Thanks for coming by. Made my day!

Christina Estes: Lilly will make about 100 visits this year. Each one touching more than the patient.

She teaches me compassion and service and she just has unconditional love for anybody that she meets.


Ted Simons: The pet connection program also includes cats and rabbits. Find out more at That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thanks for joining us, you have a great evening.

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