by Phyllis Kembel, Admissions RN

Home care hospice nursing is not only challenging, but can be a new adventure every day!  Over the years, as I have visited in the homes I have come in contact with a wide variety of pets, including the usual dogs and cats (in all breeds and sizes!).  Birds, lizards and (gulp) even snakes grace the homes in some communities.

One day while providing nursing support to a patient, I noticed a large cage nearby.  I didn’t look in the cage when I arrived into the home, but as the visit progressed, I noticed strange sounds which were getting louder coming from the cage.   When I couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer, I peeped into the cage.  To my surprise, there was a squirrel in the cage climbing on the bars. My curiosity prompted a family to warn me, “Don’t get too close he likes to tinkle on visitors.” Believe me, I kept my distance at that home from then on.  Unfortunately, I didn’t learn a life lesson on keeping my distance from cages!  On another day, I lost my watch to curious monkeys housed in cages.  Upon retrospect, I guess I should be thankful it was only my watch, not my hand!

But, one of the all-time strangest animal experiences I have ever had was being chased around the yard of a patient’s home.  I had walked outside the home to place a call to the discharge planner from the local hospital with some questions about the patient I was there to sign up for hospice services.  There were several other chickens in the yard but this particular one didn’t like my looks!  That chicken kept chasing me round and round the yard, around trees and around bushes.  In case you are wondering, it’s very hard to talk on the phone while dodging an irate chicken. The discharge planner asked me, “What’s going on?  Why do you sound like your running?”  My breathless reply was, “Because I am being chased by a chicken and I AM running.” I must say that she along with the ambulance personnel (they were watching) all had a good laugh. That silly chicken actually walked into the house when I went back inside!

Our calling as hospice professionals is to walk with the entire family on their end of life journey.  Little did I know when I began my career with Hospice of Marshall County – Shepherd’s Cove that some family members might have fur, feathers, scales and beaks!

For an update on retired Shepherd’s Cove comfort cat, Squirt, request a copy of the Spring Newsletter due out May 5th or visit his Facebook page at