How to come to the end? Saying good-bye

Jasmine Marie and her two dogs
Jasmine Marie is the program coordinator and dog trainer for Human-animal Bond in Colorado.

Story by Jasmine Marie

Saying good-bye is never easy, whether it’s to someone we’ve lost forever or to a close friend visiting from out of town.

HABIC volunteers can become experts at saying good-byes. Depending on where you go for your visits, you may have to manage good-byes more often, but it can be done!

Schools and long-term care facilities are two examples of places where we form a stronger sense of friendship or bond with clients.

School Good-byes

The end of the school year is approaching fast and you probably have asked yourself, “What is the best way to end the year and maybe say good-bye forever?”

I have been working on animal-assisted interventions with children in schools for 10 years. The hardest thing for me is saying good-bye with a sense of curiosity. I wonder, did we really make an impact?

It is hard to walk away not knowing if we will ever see that student again. Some of us may be lucky enough to run into one later in life, and then even luckier if they remember who we are…..without our dog!

Here are some tips for closure to the end of the school year:

  • Plan a time (as schedules permit) for the student’s parent/guardian to come and see the skills learned with your dog.
  • Have the school professional take a picture of the student and your dog so they can print it out (and laminate it if feeling fancy), and give to the student to take home.
  • Ask your school professional if giving a small gift (usually $1 store type goodies) would be okay.
  • Give your students a paw print of your pooch. This could even be something you do together in one of your last sessions of the year.
  • Give the child your animal’s HABIC trading card. This is a fabulous way for them to have HABIC’s information so they (or their parents/guardians) can contact us!

Long-term Care Good-byes

This is one of the more challenging placements for building a friendship and then having to say good-bye. For many of us volunteers, we see residents for several years in long-term care settings, and often do not receive word when someone has passed on.

Here are some ways to be kept up to date on someone’s status:

  • Touch base with the activities director in your facility regularly. Let them know if you would like to be informed if someone is not doing well or is being transferred. If you don’t see the activities director often, feel free to leave a note on their desk or in the check-in binder (if you have one in your facility).
  • Again, leave your HABIC trading card. This is a fabulous way for a resident’s family member to know who has been visiting and give them HABIC’s contact information. Some of our volunteers are invited to funerals by client families.

Earlier this year, just after the first trading cards were created, we received a call from a resident at Lemay Avenue Health & Rehab asking for a visit from Finley, a Bloodhound mix who became HABIC-certified with her owner Jamie in 2018. “I have Finley’s card and I’d like her to come visit me,” said the resident. We just loved hearing this and let Jamie know Finley had a fan waiting!

Still haven’t gotten your dog’s first 50 free trading cards? Call or email the HABIC office to get the contact information for the photographer in your area (or send us two high-resolution photos). The professional photo session of your pooch is free!

If you have any other ideas, please share them with me at jasmine.marie@colostate.edu and I would be happy to pass on tips for how to bring closure to your sessions.