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Nikita’s Mission

Nikita is a four-legged messenger of joy.  See what happens when she shows up at a Veteran’s door.

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Nikita’s Mission

If you walk into the Heartland Hospice office in Warrenton, Virginia on a Friday, you might find a Shiloh Shepherd named Nikita lying under Dave Benhoff’s desk. Dave is Nikita’s human dad and Veteran Coordinator at Heartland where he runs the We Honor Veterans initiative. Nikita has a very important job too; she makes regular visits to hospice patients and their families.   Heartland Hospice serving northern Virginia has integrated pet therapy into their service offerings; needless to say, Nikita is a hit!

“Nikita has had such a positive impact on so many people,” says Dave.  “We have a nursing home patient who has a history of episodes of significant depression and still suffers with it.  A few weeks ago, while she was having a very rough week, I knocked on her door and asked if I could come in.  She almost jumped out of the bed when she saw Nikita; I don't think I've ever seen anyone look happier, and we had a nice, long visit.”

Dave is proud of the work Heartland is doing to help Veterans receive access to specialized hospice care through the We Honor Veterans initiative.  In 2010, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop WHV to improve outreach and increase access to high quality hospice and palliative care for Veterans and their loved ones.  Heartland Hospice Serving Northern Virginia is a level four WHV partner, the highest level an organization can achieve.

Nikita furthers that mission of honoring Veterans every time Dave puts on her camouflage vest and takes her along to patient homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.  Dave estimates that Nikita has now made over one thousand visits.

“Nikita’s pet therapy visits, like our Veteran program itself, is a service above-and-beyond what's required or even expected,” Dave says. “It’s done simply because it benefits our patients and their families-as well as the community at large. Simply put, she makes people happy.”

Visit the Heartland Hospice Serving Northern Virginia website to learn more about their organization.

To learn more about the We Honor Veterans program, click here.

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