provides dog show for Cedar Hill resident
By Kate Shively
Wicked Local Randolph
Posted Mar 29, 2011 @ 03:42 PM
Randolph — Albina Sabaitis smiles weakly from her wheelchair bed at Cedar Hill Health Care Center in Randolph as she watches dogs perform tricks for her. But her face lights up when Champ, a light-haired golden retriever, jumps up on her lap. Her blue eyes stay lovingly glued to the overgrown pup in front of her as she reaches out to pet him.
Sabaitis, 88, would later vote Champ as the “cutest dog” in a dog show held in her honor at Cedar Hill Health Care Center.
The show was held through the Care Alternatives Hospice as a sort of “Make-A-Wish” event to grant her final wish. Other residents also were brought in to enjoy the festivities.
“Albina wished for a dog show, so her guardian set it up with Care Alternatives,” said Cheryl Hayes, director of admissions and marketing at Cedar Hill.
Lindsay Coe, volunteer supervisor for Care Alternatives Hospice, said the event is similar to the Dreamcatchers program, designed to grant the final wish of patients in their last days. Coe said this was the first dog show for Care Alternatives.
“Albina only responds to dogs,” Coe said. “When dogs come her way she lights up, so we knew a dog show would be a good idea.”
Sabaitis got to vote for winners of best trick, cutest dog, most obedient, and best costume - the last generating some creative entries. All winners were rewarded with a chew toy and plastic medallion.
Coe said the event was kept secret from Sabaitis until that morning.
“It made me feel….I cried,” Sabaitis said. “I was surprised.”
Nine of the 11 dogs at the show were members of Dog B.O.N.E.S. Therapy Dogs of Mass, a volunteer organization out of Scituate that provides therapy for hospitals, schools, nursing homes and rehab centers throughout Massachusetts.
Coe said Sabaitis lost a dog this past decade in a tragic incident, and thinks that is why she has such a sweet spot for dogs.
“I had a beautiful dog, and I let him out,” said Sabaitis, who trailed off, with tears gathering in her cataract blue eyes. She says nothing else, but her eyes show her pain.
Kit Hoffmann of Randolph has been a volunteer pet therapist for five years, and said dogs give many benefits to patients like Sabaitis.
“It brings a smile to their faces and comforts them,” Hoffmann said. “It lightens up their day, though sometimes it takes a while. Some reminisce, and for some people it’s just a break. They enjoy it.”
Hoffmann said she and her three-year-old akita-mix, Koda, visit Cedar Hill every two weeks. They always make sure to see Sabaitis because Koda is her favorite.
“She’s a very sweet lady,” Hoffmann said.
Pat Watts of Hanover and her four-year-old corgi, Ali, have been training in pet therapy for a little more than four months.
“This is our first outing, though,” Watts said. “I think it’s a terrific program, and Ali seemed to like it.”
Maria Marotta, community education liaison, said the events at Cedar Hill are usually held quarterly.
“It’s a case-by-case basis. We have a team that comes up with an idea for one of the residents,” she said.
The team for this event included Scott St. Louis, hospice chaplain; Anne Bood, hospice social worker; and Jennifer Harris, hospice RN.
Marotta said Care Alternatives recently gave a man his last dance through Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Concord. It had been his dream to dance one last time before his death.
“It can be anything from a pizza party to this,” she said. “We’ve even done a wedding before.”