Having a Therapy Pet is Incredibly Rewarding

Occasionally, we add or drop visits to facilities on our calendar for one reason or another. Several years ago, we started going to an extremely nice assisted living facility about three miles from my house. When I visit this particular facility, it reminds me why I love doing what we do.

We (my therapy dog and I) have been lucky because the activities director at this particular facility has been awesome. Some months when we visit, she is there to greet us and she remembers many of the dogs’ names. If there’s a conflict with another activity, she calls to try to reschedule and work around it.  She has been great at reminding the residents when we’re coming so there’s always a good group of residents down to visit with us.

One of their residents has stood out (with her wonderful personality) from the very beginning. She’s a smaller lady, not even 5 feet tall, with a slender build and full head of white hair. Her physical condition has always been great. She has not needed to use a cane, walker or wheelchair.

Every time we went to visit, she was right there enjoying the dogs’ company. She would tell me how she used to own her own small private plane and had a private pilot’s license. I would tease that if she only still had her plane, she could take me up for a ride.

This facility is among those that allows the assisted living residents to have a small pet in their apartment. She had a cat. She would always comment while petting Bo, “My cat is going to smell me and ask ‘Where the heck have you been?'”

I would joke with her, “If that cat wants to get fed, he’s going to let you back in the apartment!”  She would laugh and laugh!

“Oh, you’re so right about that!”  She would also tell us every time, “You don’t know how much this means to all of us here,, having you bring your dogs in to share with us. We will all go to bed tonight with smiles on our faces!”

Now she has been moved to the Memory Support Unit. She still gets around just like she always has. When the weather is nice enough to cross the parking lot to that building, we take the dogs over to visit those residents, too.

Last night, Bo and I went to see her again. As soon as we walked into the building and next to the couch she was sitting on, she got a huge smile on her face. “I remember you!  I’m so happy to see you!” and she gave me a hug. She still recognizes me as someone nice who has come to visit her many times!

It’s tough understanding how why she requires that type of care, since she appears to be the same as she was.  I know there has to be something the experts see that we don’t. I do know that our visits still make a very positive impact on her life.  And she still goes to bed each night after our visits with a smile on her face.

It really is a blessing to be in this line of work. Bo touches so many lives, and we have the honor of meeting many amazing people along the way.

Do you know someone with a therapy dog? Do you have one yourself? Tell us about it in the comments below.

-Photo Credit: From flickr by UT Libraries. Pictured in Bo, the therapy dog.  

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