Carolina Canines is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities to achieve greater independence and enhanced quality of life and to improving people's lives through the services of specially trained dogs.
PO Box 12643
Wilmington, NC 28405
Check out Carolina Canines for Service opportunities at VolunteerMatch.
By Rebecca Hunt, Communications Intern
Pat Hairston really loves animals, and so when she discovered Carolina Canines for Service (CCFS) at the local North Carolina Azalea Festival in April 2002, she realized this was the opportunity she'd been looking for to get involved as a volunteer in her local area. She began volunteering in the office and was soon working almost 40 hours per week. "I witnessed my first team training, when a person with mobility impairment is matched with their service dog, and I was hooked," she explains.
As anyone involved with the organization will tell you, at CCFS, dogs change lives. Whether they're providing greater independence through mobility assistance or calmly helping a child learn to read, their positive impact is always felt. CCFS offers five programs that address physical as well as emotional needs, including the original Carolina Canines for Service program, Carolina Canines for Veterans, Paws for Reading, and Carolina Canines for Therapy.
Pat's friendly dog, Delta Mae, seemed like a perfect fit for the Carolina Canines for Therapy program, which trains owners and their dogs to provide animal-assisted visitations in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, group homes and treatment facilities. There's a lot of research to suggest that animals, especially dogs, can bring comfort to terminally ill patients at the end of their lives.
It took Delta Mae some time to actually get certified as a licensed therapy dog, however. Being a typical Airedale Terrier, she's very exuberant about life, especially when meeting people. "Delta Mae has never met someone that was not her best friend!" says Pat. But she knew Delta Mae would make a great therapy dog, so they kept trying.
Delta Mae ended up proving Pat right, when she informally began her therapy work much sooner than they both expected. Carole, Pat's friend who had struggled with breast cancer for seven years, was told before Christmas 2004 that there were no other alternatives for treatment. The cancer had won; the battle was coming to an end. Carole, a dog lover, hadn't had a dog of her own in many years, but she loved Delta Mae. The crazy wild Airedale knew instinctively that Carole needed special, gentle care.
That March, Carole was hospitalized and then transferred to a hospice center. She requested that Delta Mae come visit her. So every day Delta Mae would put her therapy vest on and a pretty bandana and go visit Carole. Delta Mae would rise up on her hind legs by the side of the bed and give Carole a doggie kiss to say "hello." When asked, she would gently climb into bed with Carole and lie there.
On a quiet Tuesday afternoon, Delta Mae climbed into Carole's bed for one last time. Delta Mae lay down beside her friend and placed her head on Carole's hand. As Carole quietly passed away, Delta Mae was by her side.
Pat derives hope and inspiration from the fact that she was able to bring comfort to her friend at the end. Carole didn't die alone but was surrounded by the companions who loved her the most.
Delta Mae finally became a licensed therapy dog with Carolina Canines for Therapy in February, 2005, and she and Pat have been a certified Carolina Canines for Therapy team for over 5 years now.
Pat deeply enjoys giving back to her community and touching the lives of others through their work. "We have dedicated these years to being with the many people and their families who have experienced the final days of life, and we'll continue to bring comfort to others in the future," she concludes.