Pictured above, Tallulah with "mom," nurse Madonna Fasimpaur.

"Her only angst was that she was going to be left again." Those are the words of licensed practical nurse Madonna Fasimpaur about Tallulah, aka "Lula," her hospice pet therapy dog who served faithfully at the David Simpson Hospice House since 2008. On Sept. 1, 2016, Tallulah made her last visit to the House as a friend, colleague, volunteer and therapy dog.

Surrounded by friends, her "mom" and best friend Linus– a fellow therapy dog– one of Hospice of the Western Reserves most faithful volunteers was given a final blessing.

The next day, after 15 years on earth including almost eight with Hospice of the Western Reserve, Tallulah bid farewell for good.

Finding her place

In 2008, Tallulah, a purebred golden retriever, had been tied to a shelter in the middle of the night. She stayed at the shelter until being adopted by another hospice nurse through GRIN a golden retriever rescue program. That nurse was forced to give her up when she found she was allergic to the dog. When a call was put out for a new owner, Fasimpaur quickly adopted the dog, who became one of several pet therapy dogs at the House.

"She's the dog I wanted for 40 years," Fasimpaur said, noting that as a bonus that she could bring the dog to work with her. She quickly noted Tallulah's temperament and special ability made her a perfect fit for hospice work.

Perhaps it was the fear of being left alone again, but Tallulah proved not only to be an exceptionally gentle, loving dog, but she had an uncanny ability to know when patients could use some company.

"She seemed to know if a patient didn't have someone with her, if they had family out of town," Fasimpaur said. "She would wait outside the room, vigilant. She had an inner knowing they were alone and no one was coming. That dog just knew."

At the House, she enjoyed the attention heaped upon her by patients, families and staff.

"I often referred to her as the diva dog," Fasimpaur said. "She wanted the attention of the people, the patients, the doctors, employees. She was a people dog. And she loved the special work we did.  Pet therapy is so useful. It's so healthy. So good for the patients and families."

A special dog, an extra special sendoff

Farewell to Tallulah

(L-R) Tallulah (right) with BFF Linus; employees at David Simpson House House gather in a circle for a blessing; employees say goodbye to Tallulah. Click to enlarge photos.

Dr. Kevin Dieter, a hospice doctor at the House Dr. Dieter said that as a person who deals with suffering and death every work day, he was especially moved by Tallulah and the circle ceremony.

"One of our beloved therapy dogs, actually a beloved colleague, was brought to hospice house to say good-bye to us, and us to her," Dr. Dieter said. "She was very sick."

When Tallulah was visiting the David Simpson Hospice House for the last time, she was showered with love and treats. For years, she wandered the hallways at hospice, bringing comfort to patients and their loved ones. Now, she was receiving the comfort from those who came to love her.

"When word circulated among staff that Fasimpaur would be bringing Tallulah in around 3 p.m. for her last visit, employees began gathering in The Atrium to honor her," spiritual care coordinator Chuck Behrens said.

Dieter led a group of employees who gathered around Tallulah in reading an Irish blessing, "To Learn from an Animal Being":

       May we learn to return, And rest in the beauty
       Of animal being, Learn to lean low,
       Leave our locked minds, And with freed senses
       Feel the earth, Breathing with us.

"There we were, a group of co-workers of all backgrounds, in a circle, saying thank you and good bye as we all read a Celtic blessing to her," Dieter said. "I was struck with how absolutely beautiful that was, a living definition of gratitude, honor and love."

The following day, Behrens honored Tallulah with a post on his blog, The Caring Catalyst titled "Best in Show(ing) up."

By all accounts, her final day at the house was one filled with love and attention. "She of course was happy and loving the treats she was eating, and loving us, and just being in that moment, the only one she knows," Dieter said.