Therapy Dogs — An Angel on a Leash
The other day I took a walk. The sun was shining, and the temperature was perfect for a long walk with my dog. Since it was so nice out, I decided to explore a new route. As I strolled along, I noticed a nursing care facility across from where we were walking.
Outside of the nursing home, I could see a few elderly and disabled people sitting outside enjoying the nice weather. As I walked by, I could feel them starring across the street at my dog and I. Even from a distance, I could see them fixated on and smiling at my little pup. I decided to do something on impulse – we crossed the street and headed over to see them.
My little guy pranced around as everyone fawned over him. Everyone wanted a turn at petting him. Despite being wheelchair bound, one man tapped the side of his leg and little name gently jumped up to meet this man’s hand. The elderly man petted the top of his head and name bounced back up to lick him. A giant smile came over this man’s face as he looked up at me. He didn’t need to say a word, I could see my little guy just made his day.
A nurse came out to check on all the fuss. We spoke briefly, and she said that patients love and really benefit from the presence of animals particularly dogs. She let me know that a lot of nursing homes allow and even encourage bringing your friendly pet to visit the elderly or disabled. It not only made their day, it made mine too!
Have you ever thought about how one simple gesture like bringing your dog to a nursing home could really make someone’s day? According to Therapy Dogs International, “It is profoundly moving to see how dogs have the ability to help calm and soothe agitated individuals while lifting the spirits of those who are sad and lonely. They provide a medium for physical touch and display affection for those who have lived isolated lives. The mere presence of a dog raises the spirits of a person and the petting and touching of the fur allows one to have a wonderful object toward which to express their affection.”
On the way home I thought about how such a brief, simple visit from a dog could invoke such happiness amongst a group of seniors. Dogs are reminders of the past- of children, family, grand-kids- which is particularly important to those dealing with memory loss. Dogs live in the present, the here and now, like the elderly tend to do and thus there is a sense of camaraderie. They are upbeat and give love unconditionally. They provide companionship and reduce the feeling of loneliness that many older people face.
Sometimes it just takes an instance like this to be reminded how lucky we are to be owners of such great animals!
Ten small dog breeds for therapy work
Volunteering for Dog Therapy:
Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org)
Pets On Wheels, Therapy Dogs International
Why older people need pets!
LOVE AND RESPECT ANIMALS!