Animal Assisted Heroine (And Dana, HAMA’s therapist)

Dana is an Animal Assisted Therapist. What makes her extraordinary, is her humanity. Out of her own initiative and without any request for compensation she has become deeply involved with one of the most beloved people in HAMA, Suzanna C, pictured below with Ronen (l), Hama’s Assistant, and Avshalom Beni, founder.

Suzanna is 81 years old, a Holocaust Survivor born in Hungary who later migrated to Romania during the war. Suzanna came to our attention in 2008 when she was compelled to move out of her small third floor walk up flat in a a distressed neighborhood of Bat Yam. She had very few financial resources and was basically alone with only one remaining cousin of her late husband, whom she saw on a very sporadic basis.

HAMA was called into the picture to help save Suzanna’s lone companion, a very old blind and deaf dog whom she had rescued as a puppy. The municipality wanted it taken to the pound, since animals were not permitted into the rest home. HAMA was called in by the social worker, Hanna Itzhaki, and we adopted Suzanna’s dog.

It came to live with Pam and Avshalom (founder and director of HAMA) and our dogs and cats on the kibbutz for another three years. During that time we brought Suzanna her beloved canine companion for visitations, When the the old dog passed away in peace Suzanna was greatly comforted to know that it had been loved and not been abandoned.

The transition to the rest home had not been easy for Suzanna. Having her dog taken from her was painful enough. When she was insensitively placed in a room with patients suffering from severe dementia, that for Suzanna was a death sentence.

Suzanna was provided with a small single room in the rest home. That room has remained her refuge, a place she can call home, read her books, listen to her music and feel at peace with her world. However she still yearned for someone with whom she could really communicate.

That’s when Dana stepped in and provided a deep and caring companionship for Suzanna. Dana keeps in touch with Suzanna on a regular basis and comes with one of her therapy dogs to see her. Suzanna has a deep love of animals, music and art , all of which she misses very much. Dana does all she can to fill those gaps. The deep friendship forged between this Holocaust Survivor from Hungary and this young Yemenite kibbutznik from so far away in time and space is truly moving.

For Suzanna, Dana has become the family she had lost so long ago. Some time ago Dana initiated a life moving event for Suzanna. She organized a special meeting at Yad V’Shem and personally drove Suzanna there. It was Suzanna’s very first visit. Yad V’Shem recorded Susanna’s family narrative for their archives, and for Suzanna it was a moment of grace that now she, who was childless could be comsoled that she would be remembered. Dana’s compassionate involvement embodies the heart and soul of our organization.