Ian Anderson HouseThere 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.