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An Inspired Vision for the Healing Power of Animals

Jim and Barbara Coxeter, owners of Batia Vineyards in Placerville, look forward to seeing the compelling and undeniable companionship between animals and people put to use as a component of the clinical healing process. With a significant gift to the Marshall Foundation for Community Health, they are helping bring their vision to reality for those in our community.

Jim’s deep connection with dogs began as a young man but was changed forever with the arrival of a tiny Doberman Pinscher puppy. No more than ten days old, Bogart was the size of a hamster and needed to be bottle fed. Jim raised him and, for the next twelve years, Bogart was the best dog he had ever known. Bogart was intelligent, compassionate and very sociable with people.

For many years Jim lived in a rural community in Shasta County as well as residences in the Bay Area. He would frequently drive to Santa Cruz where his mother was living in a senior assisted living facility.  Jim’s mother loved Bogart and Jim always brought him along on his trips. Bogart was allowed to visit other residents in the building’s common areas.  He would intuitively lay his head into their laps and, in what Jim describes as a “great awakening,” even the most distant of individuals would come to life when Bogart visited. Jim and Bogart returned almost every other week and even those who were initially hesitant to be approached by a 98-pound dog, eventually came to look forward to his regular visits.

In time, Jim’s mother and Bogart both sadly passed. Then, as a birthday present, Vino joined the family. A first-generation half poodle / half golden retriever, Vino has been with Jim and Barbara through the growth of their wine business and is the official greeter in their Main Street tasting room. They each describe Vino as the love of their life and there seem to be few people in town who don’t know him and agree.

Vino sets visitors at ease. Like Bogart, his intuitive and expressive demeanor has a calming effect and it reminded Jim of the visits to his mother. Dedicated supporters of the Placerville community, Jim and Barbara reflected on the care they had each received in Marshall Medical Center’s emergency and cardiac rehabilitation departments and the friends they had made with Marshall’s staff and soon an idea was born. With a gift from the Coxeter Foundation, they could make a statement about the important role animals – dogs specifically – can have in healing and well-being.

“I envision a program where well-trained animals can visit Marshall’s patients for therapy on a regular basis,” says Jim. “Repetition and even anticipation, is key for the animals and for the patients. It is amazing to see the difference it can make in someone.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marshall’s animal assisted activity program provided patients with the opportunity to interact with qualified animal visitors during their stay. These visits provided social interaction, sensory stimulation, relaxation and facilitated stress reduction associated with hospitalization. Visits were prescheduled and patients who were in isolation, had allergies, or who declined did not receive visits. During the pandemic, however, volunteers, including the

animal assisted therapy providers, were not able to visit the hospital.

Today, Marshall is looking to restart the program, training and recruiting volunteers (both human and canine!) and strategizing how the program can have the greatest impact on patients in all areas of the hospital. The generosity of Jim and Barbara Coxeter, inspired by Vino and the memory of Bogart, will help shape and guide the program’s relaunch, benefiting patients, family, and staff for years to come.