There surely is proper etiquette for visiting the dying, and I recently had an occasion to try to figure it out.
My elderly neighbour, a widowed Scot in his eighties, knew he was dying of cancer and had just been moved to Ian Anderson House. This is a warm, homey six-bed cancer hospice that provides end-of-life palliative care in my town. The website revealed that pets are welcome visitors, and I knew Jim would want to see “the old dog,” as he called Jake.
Although for a happy minute Jake thought we were at a new leash-free park, he came willingly into the building and was a very good boy. Jim was sleeping, so we just stayed a short time. I chatted with the family and Jake charmed everyone in sight. I can see why Labs are often used to help autistic children communicate.
Sadly, Jake never did get a chance to brighten Jim’s stay; several days later, Jim passed away.
A couple of years ago my border collie Kelly was recruited to “audition” for volunteer work as a therapy dog. She enjoyed the tests in the audition and to everyone’s surprise, including mine, she was accepted. Border collies can tend to be so highly energetic that they don’t do well visiting sick or elderly people. But Kelly loves the work. It does seem to exhaust her, as she has to show a combination of extroversion and calm sensitivity, to be outgoing with strangers but not get excited by them. After our visit, she crashes. St. John’s runs this program. Maybe it’s something for you and Jake to look into?
It’s true Jake would love the attention but I’m not sure he could muster up the necessary “calm”! But as Kelly surprised you, maybe Jake would surprise me. Thanks for the suggestion!