Nancy DeSalvio, a patient at the Shelby Health and Rehabilitation Center in Shelby Township, asks Jules for a kiss and she gives it to her. Jules and his owner, Janis Kalka, are Hospice of Michigan volunteers who provide pet visits to patients. (GINA JOSEPH – THE MACOMB JOURNAL)
Nancy DeSalvio gets a lot of visitors, but none like Jules.
She takes the cake.
Or cookies, or whatever dog treats Janis Kulka brings during her visits to the Shelby Health and Rehab Center. It’s just one of the rewards she receives for being a volunteer dog at Hospice of Michigan.
“We’ve become friends,” DeSalvio said, wrapping her arms around the playful dog who had come to see her.
“We always had dogs in our house,” DeSalvio said, looking back on her life more than 60 years ago, when she and her husband raised their two children in Eastpointe. “Cats no, but dogs do. All kinds of dogs. You name it, we’ve had it.”
As for Jules?
She’s a Bernedoodle, which is a fancy name for a mixed breed of Bernese mountain dog and poodle.
“I have two of them,” said Kulka, who retired from her job as a product designer for Ford Motor Company.
Now, in addition to caring for both parents, who are in their 90s, Kulka accompanies Jules on pet visits.
“I saw how my parents responded to the dogs and thought why not share them with others,” he said.
Kulka is part of a team of 550 statewide volunteers serving with michigan hospice and Arbor Hospicemany of whom provide pet visits, musician visits, veteran-to-vet visits, or just company.
“I think they’re fantastic,” Ruth Moore-Lilly said of Kulka and her gentle giant with curly black hair and an adorable disposition.
Moore-Lilly herself is a hospice volunteer and has dedicated over 13 years of service to men and women of all ages. She also works as a volunteer program manager, and while DeSalvio Jules came to watch, everyone at the center is amused to see the well-behaved visitor.
“Jules is amazing,” he said, watching how the dog knows to sit on the ground next to DeSalvio, but as soon as Kulka asks for a little love, he shows up and provides it. “They are a great asset to our team of volunteer mascots.”
Among those who welcome visits from Kulka and Jules is the DeSalvio family.
“I think it’s great,” said DeSalvio’s granddaughter, Melissa Klein, a kindergarten teacher at Kaiser Elementary School, enjoying the exchange between hospice pet visitors and her 99-year-old grandmother.
“She has had dogs in her house her entire life,” Klein said, adding that she treated them with the same respect and kindness as her family.
“She always loved us no matter what,” Klein said, before sharing some fond memories of growing up with her grandmother, learning to cook and absorbing the lessons she taught as a matriarch, adding to the joyous mood surrounding the visit. .
It is these types of interactions promoted by hospice volunteers across the state, who step up to provide companionship and emotional support to patients and their families during one of life’s most vulnerable times, that make them such a great gift.
“Volunteers are the heart and soul of hospice care: compassionate, caring individuals who enjoy providing comfort and dignity to patients and their families,” said Alison Wagner, director of volunteer services and integrative therapies for Hospice of Michigan and Arbor. Hospice, who recognized many of these individuals during Volunteer Month in April. “We truly appreciate each of our more than 550 volunteers across the state for their kindness and dedication.”
For DeSalvio, who belongs to St. Isadore Catholic Church but now attends Mass virtually at the facility, Kulka and Jules are precious.
“To do what she does, as a hospice volunteer, along with taking care of her parents,” DeSalvio said. “She has the Lord working with her to get all of that under control and she’s very happy about it.”
be a volunteer
Hospice volunteers serve as an essential part of the health care team and offer countless benefits to patients, families and the non-profit organizations they serve, but more help is always needed.
“We need volunteers in Washington, Armada, Richmond, Clyde, Algonac and the East China area,” Moore-Lilly said.
No special experience is required to volunteer.
For those who have experienced a loss, the organizations recommend a one-year waiting period before becoming a hospice volunteer to allow for grief processing.
For more information visit hom.org.