By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY - The hospice dog that became a local celebrity after visiting thousands of patients near the end of their lives has died.
Shiloh, a golden retriever, was 14.
He died at home in Michigan with his master, Jerry Hill, who trained his pet to work as a service dog for hospice, church and other nonprofits.
Shiloh made his first visit at 6-months old to a terminally ill patient. And for nearly a decade and a half, he visited about 6,000 more patients during the last days or hours of their lives.
"He was my best friend, and I'll miss him terribly," said Mr. Hill.
The dog's work with hospice patients was the subject of "Shiloh Speaks," a funny, uplifting and moving memoir told from the perspective of the amazing service animal.
Written with humor and compassion, the book tells how one therapy dog's spirit brought joy to people most in need.
Mr. Hill and his wife, Barbara, were part-time Stuart residents until Mrs. Hill's death last May.
When the family was in town, Shiloh helped comfort animal lovers who were patients at the Treasure Coast Hospice.
News of his death has led to a flood of support for his longtime master.
"I got all these cards and letters after my wife died, and I've received as many already since Shiloh's died," Mr. Hill said. "It's been quite an outpouring."
The service dog made his last visit three days before his death on July 31.
He had been sick and after several visits to the veterinarian, his master knew the senior dog was terminally ill.
When Mr. Hill took Shiloh to a Michigan hospice to say goodbye to the staff there, employees requested the dog spend some time with one more patient.
"He played with her and then fell asleep, so I knew his career was ending," Mr. Hill said.
Shiloh died at home, overlooking Lake Michigan, one of his favorite playgrounds, his master said.
"I'll take his ashes with me and spread it all the places he went, all the places he loved and all the places he helped," Mr. Hill said.
"Shiloh Speaks" is available from Treasure Coast Hospice and its thrift stores in Martin and St. Lucie counties, Stuart Congregational Church and online from www.Shilohspeaksthebook.com, www.Amazon.com, and www.BarnesandNoble.com.