DANVERS — On his daily visit to Kaplan Family Hospice House, Patrick, a 4-year-old golden retriever, lay on the bed of Mary Davidson, who patted his thick, wavy coat.
Later, in another room, Patrick nuzzled with Mary Rand as her husband, Warren, lay in his bed.
The dog’s tail wagged madly when he greeted Debra Kolodny, 83, of Peabody, as she arrived to visit her husband. “Hi, Patrick!” Kolodny said with a smile. “He came to see my husband yesterday. . . . He’s very, very comforting.”
Patrick is the therapy dog at Hospice of the North Shore & Greater Boston, the nonprofit that owns Kaplan House, and also provides end-of-life care for people who die at home.
Patrick — born on July 4, 2008, and named for patriot Patrick Henry — is a popular companion at hospice. He came to the agency two years ago, after being trained as a therapy dog. He spends most days at Kaplan House, but also travels with staff to see hospice patients at their homes. He’s so busy he has his own calendar of appointments. On nights and weekends, he lives with Diane Stringer, executive director of hospice, at her home on Cape Ann, where he loves to take dips in the ocean.
On Sunday, Patrick will be part of the 25th annual Walk for Hospice, a 3-mile trek in Danvers that aims to raise $250,000 to support services such as pet therapy, grief counseling, and other programs not covered by private insurance or Medicare.
“We want to raise significant money, and raise awareness about hospice,” said Tom Gould, the walk cochairman and a Peabody city councilor who owns Treadwell’s Ice Cream in Peabody. “We want folks to come walk, and have a good time.”
“The walk honors the lives, courage, and memories of our loved ones,” said Ronna Thur-Winer of Danvers, walk cochairwoman, and a longtime volunteer. “It’s a spirited event. There are swarms of people.”
About 5,000 people are expected to participate in the walk, which steps off at 9 a.m. from the football field at St. John’s Prep on Spring Street. Walkers are encouraged to seek $25 pledges from sponsors to mark the walk’s 25th anniversary. A kickoff event last month saluted local residents who served as cochairmen over the years.
“The walk is a very important fund-raiser for us,” said Stringer. “But, it’s equally important to us that so many people will take time on a Sunday morning to support us. . . . It allows them to give voice to their grief.”
In 1987, the first Walk for Hospice drew 70 people who walked down a street in Beverly, where the organization was run out of a two-family home on Winter Street. The nonprofit started in 1978 as an all-volunteer group.
Today, the organization has a $35 million budget and a staff of 61, including physicians, nurses, social workers, and clinicians. Medical, emotional, and spiritual services are provided, with help from an army of trained volunteers.
The main office is on Sylvan Street in Danvers, and a second is on Walnut Street in Wellesley. Kaplan House — one of the state’s first inpatient hospice facilities — opened in 2005 on Liberty Street in Danvers.
“I always like to say that we’ve helped to change the way people die,” said Stringer, the executive director for 23 years. “We’ve helped thousands of families. Nobody has to die alone.”
In 2011, the organization acquired Partners Hospice, which was based in Boston. Since then, its service area has expanded to 87 communities, stretching from Salisbury to Walpole to Wellesley. The name was changed to Hospice of the North Shore & Greater Boston to reflect its broad reach.
The organization is scouting locations to open a second hospice house, either in Boston or in the western suburbs, Stringer said. “We’re looking at prospective sites. Not everyone can die at home. There is a need for inpatient care.”
Kolodny brought her husband of 62 years to Kaplan House after she could no longer care for him at home. “Believe me, I don’t know what I would do without this,” she said. “The staff is wonderful. The house is peaceful and calm.”
Kaplan House has 20 suites, each with a single bed for a patient, a recliner, a couch that pulls out to a bed, a bathroom, and a refrigerator. All rooms open onto a patio, which overlooks Kaplan house’s well-groomed grounds.
A memory garden, with Japanese maple trees and pink rose bushes, has a walkway made of bricks, inscribed in memory of former patients. “Boy With Balloon,” an original bronze sculpture, stands in the garden. “Some people come back here to remember their loved ones,” Stringer said.
Inside the house, a faith quilt, hand-stitched with birds and butterflies, hangs in a small chapel. By a window, a collection of painted rocks bears the last words of grieving family and friends. “Love and peace to my angel,” read one. “To my loving mother, 22 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren,” read another.
“What people write on them is amazing,” Stringer said quietly. “It started with one person leaving a single stone, and others followed.”
A grief and healing center offers education and support about surviving a death. Support groups, individual counseling, and workshops are among the offerings. Camp Stepping Stones, a grief camp for kids, is offered during the summer. Support is available to anyone, whether or not their loved one was served by hospice.
“The whole experience of losing someone is a major event in the life of a family or friend,” Stringer said. “We’re here to help.”