Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, but none give more smiles per pound than Eileen and Bill Wissore’s canine comfort companions. The couple’s Great Pyrenees are trained service animals with a gift for knowing how to brighten the final days of life or first hours of grief, and they have comforted thousands in five years of service to Community Healthcare of Texas.
Their joyful presence won Eileen, Bill, and their pawesome pals the first annual Teamwork Award, one of the Essential Piece awards created to honor volunteers who embody the values of Community Healthcare of Texas.
It was an encounter with a service dog that inspired Eileen and Bill’s service as sidekicks to a loveable pack of furry hospice volunteers. Later, when a doctor prescribed a service dog for Eileen, they were delighted. Finding a trained dog can take years and thousands of dollars, but a chance meeting between Bill and a service dog trainer was the stroke of luck they needed. The trainer visited the Wissore home and met their Great Pyrenees, Coco. After a long talk, he had some surprising advice. “You don’t need a dog,” he said. “You’ve already got one.”
Coco had the instincts of a great comfort animal, he explained. Because she would also be working with children in the family court system, he offered to train her free of charge.
A star was born. Coco’s one-dog show became a duet with the arrival of Lovie, another Great Pyrenees, and the two calmed, comforted, and delighted everyone at Community Healthcare of Texas House at Huguley for years.
Their canine collaboration ended suddenly on Christmas Eve when Coco was stricken by a fatal illness. Today there’s a new girl, Coco II. She has a lot to learn but will be ready when the hospice house is again open to its favorite, furry VIPs.
“We want to go back so badly, just to see smiles,” Eileen said. “I’m selfish. I do it for me.
For more information about volunteer opportunities in your area, complete the online form or call Community Healthcare of Texas in the Dallas/Fort Worth area at (800) 226-0373 or in the Waco area at (800) 625-9328.