Marlborough canine partners with owner to bring comfort

By Lori Berkey Contributing Writer
Marlborough resident Paula Adelson and her hospice therapy dog, Tally Ho, team up to offer comfort to people in the last stage of their lives. PHOTO/LORIBERKEY

Marlborough – Tally Ho, a cairn terrier, barks incessantly at any passing truck when she's riding in the car. But when she's placed on a bed next to someone who is dying, she's a whole different animal. She knows she has a job to do. She quiets right down and brings comfort to her charge. Her owner, Marlborough resident Paula Adelson, used to take other pets to nursing homes to cheer people up. But after her husband died under the soothing care of a home hospice, and Adelson later saw an ad from a facility needing hospice therapy dogs, she decided to get Tally Ho schooled for that purpose.

Tally Ho passed her training through the nonprofit, Dog BONES Therapy Dogs of Massachusetts, two years ago. Since then, she and Adelson have traveled around easing the dying process for people in the last stage of their lives. With Tally's help, Adelson was honored as “Volunteer of the Year” in 2010 by Care Alternatives hospice in Marlborough.

“It's very rewarding in terms of being able to give of yourself to people who are really needy and are in a situation where they have very little control over their own lives,” Adelson said. ” I'se just seen so much joy from people from doing so little.”

Adelson grew up with cats and dogs. Her involvement with animals turned into a career, and she worked as an animal control officer and assistant dog officer for the town of Sudbury for many years. Currently, she's Sudbury's animal inspector, does barn inspections and is in charge of animal quarantines. She's also a horse lover and owner.

Adelson has a history of helping dogs help people. She volunteered with the Newtonbased Helping Hounds Pet Therapy organization years ago and also helped found Caring Canines, a nonprofit visiting therapy dog program based in Winchester. Both of those programs involved nursing home work. With Aldelson also having volunteered for hospice programs in the past, it was a natural progression for her to team with Tally Ho for hospice duties.

“It's really a partnership,” Adelson said. “This is a way of both of us giving back. To me, this is when people are most vulnerable, when they'se basically dying, and to be able to give them a little bit of joy, even for a few minutes, is just so important.”

Adelson is told which patients they'sl be visiting ahead of time, but Tally Ho finds out by instinct. Recently, Adelson was scheduled to take Tally Ho to visit three people at a facility. After the first two, Tally was tugging at the leash ready to go home. With the patient's permission, Adelson entered the third room and placed her pooch on the bed. In her usual way of knowing, Tally reversed her eagerness to leave and made herself immediately available. Adelson watched the woman's reaction.

“She had this wonderful smile on her face,” Adelson said. “Her hands came out from under her covers and Tally, who had been pulling to go, settled right down into her and just sat there for a good five minutes, realizing this woman needed her. And it was just so beautiful to see.”

Adelson said people who are interested in volunteering with their dog can contact Care Alternatives at 866-821-1212. For information about training for therapy dogs, visit