Nikita: A Four-Legged Friend on a Mission to Bring Joy to Hospice Patients in Virginia

NHPCO's "Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice" campaign releases new video about Nikita, a pet therapy dog who visits patients of Heartland Hospice Serving Northern Virginia.

Nov 05, 2015, 11:30 ET from National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

WARRENTON, Va, Nov. 5, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Decked out in her camouflage vest, Nikita, a pet therapy dog, is always ready for her next mission.  She heads out with her handler and human dad, Lt. Col., David Benhoff, USMC (Ret.), Veteran Coordinator for Heartland Hospice Serving Northern Virginia.  Nikita and Dave are featured in the latest "Moments of Life: Made Possible by Hospice" video, released today.

In "Nikita's Mission", viewers get a glimpse into the life of a pet therapy dog.  Nikita visits two Veterans who are receiving hospice services from Heartland.  Despite facing difficult challenges due to advanced illness, the patients are visibly transformed when Nikita arrives, seeking nothing more than their affection. 

Benhoff finds joy in his primary role of helping Veterans get the best possible hospice care, which includes honoring their military service of the past.  And he really loves showing up with Nikita as she makes visits to patient homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.  He says Nikita's calm and comforting nature has impacted hundreds of people.   

"Nikita's pet therapy visits, like our Veteran program itself, is a service above-and-beyond what's required or even expected," Benhoff 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."

Leading up to and including on Veterans Day, Benhoff and Nikita are available for interviews and media appearances. 

The "Moments of Life" public awareness campaign, launched by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, features stories from hospices across the United States of patients and families experiencing hospice care first hand. These stories take the form of videos, photos, blogs and articles, and offer a vibrant cross-section of different experiences with hospice. They include a veteran's journey  to the WWII Memorial, a grief camp offered for children who've lost a loved one, a great-great-great grandmother enjoying a family picnic, and now the powerful uplifting effect of pet therapy. These represent only a handful of the moments possible for patients and families because they chose hospice care.

"Most people will tell you they would prefer to spend their last days in the comfort of their own homes; but many times, the last thing someone sees is a hospital room," said Anita Brikman, senior vice president of strategic communications for NHPCO. "Moments of Life shows that choosing hospice can give patients the care they need, while also providing them with final moments of joy, peace and comfort."

For more information, visit the "Moments of Life" website at

Anita Brikman
Senior Vice President, Communications
Ph: 202-263-9640

About National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Founded in 1978, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is the oldest and largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization, based in Alexandria, Va., is committed to profoundly enhancing quality of life for people who are dying and their loved ones by improving end-of-life care and expanding access to hospice care. For more information, visit


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SOURCE National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization