The unconditional love from dogs is a perfect match for assisted living residents.
Across the country, assisted living residents are deriving great satisfaction from furry, four-legged friends accompanied by their owners who welcome the opportunity to give back to others.
“My mom has Alzheimer’s,” said Sue Travis, who visits The Peninsula, an assisted living/memory support community in Pembroke Park, Fla., with her dog, JR. “Whenever I visit, it becomes the basis of my conversation with my mother.”
Her mother was the impetus behind Sue becoming a pet therapist.
“Mom told me about a woman who brought her dog to visit the residents. I thought why can’t I do that,” she explained.
Both Travis and her dog, Junior, began visiting The Peninsula. When he passed away, she found another golden from a Golden Retriever rescue organization. In Junior’s memory, she named him JR.
JR loves interacting with residents, who look forward to his weekly visits. Intuitively, he knows which residents will reward him and he’ll visit residents’ rooms if they are unable to join the group.
At the suggestion of a rescue group trainer, Sue Roncoroni and her dog, Issy May, became trained for dog therapy. Roncoroni and Issy visit Spring Meadows of Lansdale, a personal care community in Lansdale, Pa., nearPhiladelphia.
Sue, a retired teacher, and Issy May are known to dress in costumes for their monthly visits.
“Pet therapy is much more than a dog having gentle disposition,” explained Roncoroni. “For their work in assisted living communities, dogs need to be trained to walk around walkers, not jump or do anything to throw someone off balance and especially follow the command, ‘drop it’.”
Issy May underwent special testing to become a therapy dog and JR is being certified by the local Human Society.
Gene Grizzle runs a pet therapy group that visits The Palace Royale, an assisted living community in Miami, twice a month. He organizes 12-18 dogs with their handlers including his own standard poodle, Rambo.
“Many residents had dogs of their own. These pets bring back memories,” said Grizzle. “It’s amazing how they open up and tell you stories.”
Grizzle’s group is affiliated with Therapy Dog, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Cheyenne, Wyo.