People often ask me why I devote my time to visiting facilities with my therapy dogs. Why, they wonder, did I leave a career in private school fundraising and development work to found a therapy dog organization. The answer: Nothing could prevent me from doing this meaningful work. Over the past twenty years, seven of my dogs have been therapy dogs and together we have made over 30,000 visits to people of all ages in hospitals, nursing homes, Alzheimer’s units, hospice care, mental health facilities, schools and libraries. I have never left a facility without feeling that my dog has helped at least one person feel happier, less lonely, and comforted.
Some days, like today, are extra special days. While Violet and I were visiting folks in the physical therapy room at the nursing home, a woman came in and asked to speak with me in the corridor. She put her arms around me and gave me a hug saying, Thank you. I followed your advice and brought our dog in to visit my husband. Seeing the dog made him so happy. He loved it. I have you to thank for that. I never would have done that. This woman’s husband has been in the Alzheimer’s Unit for two years. Since entering, he hasn’t been home again. He hadn’t seen his dog in two years. I told her how much her husband enjoys seeing my dogs that I bring through each week. She was surprised to hear that he had shown any reaction to seeing them.
Through the years I have observed patients with varying stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia react favorably to interacting with the dogs. Typically, these folks make little eye contact and don’t speak. When they see the dog, they connect visually and often start speaking in sentences about the dog or about a dog they had. The dogs do wonders for folks stricken with this disease. What a wonderful feeling it is to be able to share my special dogs with others.