'Dixie Belle' comforts hospice patient


Phyllis Ludwig and her Chihuahua, Dixie Belle, are working to brighten the life of an area hospice patient. — Standard-Radio Post/Richard Zowie

By Richard Zowie —

Looking flashy and dressed in a yellowish-green tutu, Dixie Belle joins Douglas Turk, for lunch.

A smile slowly emerges on Turk’s face as he removes a strawberry from his plate and holds it for Dixie to nibble.

Dixie, a four-year-old Chihuahua, seems more than happy to eat a piece of the berry and visit with her 75-year-old friend. While Chihuahuas can be energetic and loud, Dixie was calm during her visit with Turk.

Turk has lived in Fredericksburg for five years and is in hospice care at a local nursing home. For some nursing home residents, visits from friends or relatives can be a rare occasion. Having a visit from a small, friendly dog can be the encouragement patients need as they deal with their circumstances.

Dixie’s owner is Phyllis Ludwig, who lives in Rockwall, Texas. Ludwig said she first decided to get into “pet therapy” when caring for her brother, who’d suffered a brain injury.

“At a nursing home in Kentucky, I’d see women bring in poodles to visit with their husbands, who’d had strokes,” Ludwig said. “All the people would gather to see the dogs. A light went off in my head and I decided I wanted to train a dog to be nursing home friendly.”

Dixie was about eight weeks old when Ludwig adopted her. 

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