Straight to the Heart: Hospice, Therapy Dogs and a Pet Drive


“Man’s best friend will be there until the end”…

Having just lost my dear cat Sunny to cancer a few weeks ago, I’ve had plenty of hours to reflect on love, loss and courage. It’s been a rough time for this writer, so I can appreciate the enormous grief that families and friends face when losing a loved one. For patients who know that they won’t be recovering, there’s an absolute right to move on with dignity and compassion.

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Not all of us are equipped to handle end-of-life situations. Thank goodness there are community resources to ease the journey and provide comfort along the way. Nathan Adelson Hospice of Las Vegas is one such organization. This non-profit has been around for four decades, providing top quality in-home and in-patient palliative treatment and hospice care.

Nathan Adelson was a visionary administrator for Sunrise Hospital, the largest medical facility in Nevada at the time of its construction. Mr. Adelson was deeply respected as a humanitarian, overflowing with kindness and compassion. When cancer took his life, friends and family established the hospice to continue his enormous legacy.

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                                Nathan Adelson was taken by cancer in 1978…

The volunteers at Nathan Adelson Hospice dedicate time and their hearts to hundreds of dying patients each day. Naturally these special people come from all walks of life and a myriad of different social environments. Some volunteers even come from local animal shelters.

You see, therapy dogs are a big part of Nathan Adelson’s many programs. Their organization recognizes and promotes the comfort that animals bring to those undergoing emotional challenges. To make that happen, hospice patients get visits from specially trained support animals.

Paws for Paul Pet Therapy Program was created for in conjunction with celebrity Brad Garrett, a longtime advocate for NAH. Brad’s brother Paul Ames was the widely-respected manager of Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand. Sadly Paul, who was an ardent supporter of animals, passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. To honor his legacy, Garrett and NAH President Carol Fisher launched the Paws For Paul pet therapy team.

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This dashingly handsome fellow is named Panzer. He and his mom Becky Gang are part of the Paws for Paul team. Becky is Panzer’s trainer and the two of them volunteer for Nathan Adelson Hospice. Becky has been training service and support animals for many years. Panzer is her ninth NAH co-volunteer and her current star pupil.

Here’s an excerpt from the NAH blog that tells a fascinating story about Panzer’s gifts:

When Panzer was leaving the Swenson facility one day, he insisted on stopping at the door of a patient. Becky asked the family if it would be okay if Panzer visited the patient and they gladly approved. Panzer went right up to the person’s bed and stayed nearby on the floor, providing quiet, calming support. It appears Panzer also has an awareness of when a patient is nearing the very end of his or her journey of life, as that patient was in the stages of actively dying.

When Panzer puts on his work vest, he knows he’s on the job and his temperament suits the task at hand – providing that gentle comfort to patients in need of a furry friend. He’s more playful and energetic at home. Becky says, “When he gets home from visiting hospice patients, it’s almost like he’s bragging to the other pets that he got to go out and provide help that day.”

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                          Panzer and trainer/co-volunteer Becky Gang….

Panzer and Becky are also doing their part for the 8th Annual Dog Bed and Blanket Drive. They’re asking the public to donate unopened food, blankets and bedding at designated collection sites to be distributed to local shelters. The winter months pose special challenges for local animal shelters. Contrary to popular belief, it does get cold in Las Vegas…and those concrete shelter floors can be unforgivable.

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Shelter cats are also included in the drive. Kitty care requires food, toys, beds, bowls and litter. Please consider dropping off cleaning supplies, towels, wash cloths, paper towels and other basic necessities too. These items are desperately needed to help keep animals comfortable, safe and healthy while they wait for someone to adopt them…or recruit them as service and support animals.

The marvelous mission and multitude of community-driven programs that the folks at Nathan Adelson carry out require a great deal of funding. Fortunately they’ve been selected as a 2019 recipient of the MONDAYS DARK program.

You may recall my recent piece on MONDAYS DARK, an entertainment series which donates the proceeds from every performance to a different cause. Their March 18th production at The Space (3460 Cavaretta Court) will benefit Nathan Adelson Hospice…and by extension, the Paws for Paul pet therapy program. Click here to learn more and get tickets to the show.

The cycle of compassion, kindness and caring on display in this community is absolutely massive in scale. It demonstrates once more what a closely-knit group the citizens of Las Vegas truly are. As a new resident, I couldn’t be more excited and proud to call this place my home.

The Paws for Paul Pet Drive runs through February 1st. If you’d like to donate, please bring new or gently-used items and unopened food to any of the four Nathan Adelson Hospice locations:

* 4141 Swenson St., Las Vegas

* 3150 N. Tenaya Way (near Cheyenne), Suite 350, in the Mountain View Medical Office Building, Las Vegas

* 2270 E. Commercial Rd., Suite A/B in Pahrump

* 1201 Nevada State Drive in Henderson

You can also deliver donations to any Ovation Property Management location listed here.

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                                            Dedicated to Sunny Novak   

                                                    (unknown- 1/2/19)

Special thanks to Emma Williams and Allison Duck for their assistance with this article.

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Author: Sam Novak

Fitness buff, outspoken critic/blogger. Enjoys writing about shows, restaurants, events and performers in Las Vegas. Staff writer for BestOfVegas.com. Former contributing editor for VegasChatter and former deputy editor for VegasBright...

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