Dogs Make Wonderful Medicine-Visiting Seniors

My father has Parkinson’s with some Dementia and recently moved into a Long Term Care Facility. The floor he is on has a resident cat named Pinky. She wanders around visiting the residents all day and is well received. The Activities Director brings her dog Abby to visit on occasion too. I asked if I could bring a dog to visit my Dad after his first six weeks living there.

The staff was wonderful and said yes without any hesitation. I was very excited to do this, and decided to take Ember, our eight year old Labrador.

I had taken Abby, our thirteen year old Labrador, to visit my father while he was in respite care, but she was too busy sniffing around to really be an asset to lift my father’s spirits. Abby’s hearing is diminishing, but her nose is that of a young dog.

My father has always enjoyed dogs; I grew up with a Cocker Spaniel named Freddy, followed by a black lab named Ben. His mother adored dogs and totally passed the gene onto me!

My father loves to garden and I have strong memories of him gardening in Toronto and at Stone Place Farm, our family property, with a dog usually nearby.

Last week I decided to surprise him by showing up for a visit with Ember. I was certain she would behave herself being such a laid back middle-aged Labrador. She loves to be patted and talked to and adores being in close proximity to people. On my drive down I contemplated how it would go. Ember had never been in an underground garage or in an elevator. She grew up in cottage country at a Labrador breeder. She was very well taken care of there, but certainly was not a “city dog.” She had to learn how to do stairs, walk on leash and fetch a ball at almost eight years of age when we adopted her. She had never seen any dog breeds other than Labradors. There were lots of fun firsts over last summer.

I wondered how Ember would be seeing the cat on Dad’s residence floor. I did not know if she had been exposed to one. Pinky is quite a confident feline that “owns the place.”

Ember walked into the elevator no problem and up we went to the third floor. My Mother was there visiting Dad and I could see that his back was to the door while sitting in his wheel chair. Mum told him that he had a special visitor and Dad was delighted to see Ember. My father is six-foot three and his long left arm reached out to stroke Ember’s head. In true Ember fashion she sat by his side and “drank” in all the attention he was giving her. Mum said her goodbyes and Dad and I chatted briefly.

He suggested showing her to the other residents on his floor. I gave him Ember’s leash to hold and held my breath wondering how she would react with Dad seated in a wheel chair. But she was a pro and walked slowly in front of his wheelchair or by his side. He in turn sat up straight, prouder than a peacock as we headed down the hall.
Most residents gave a wave or a smile as we went slowly by. When people talked to us Ember would step a few feet into their rooms and receive some pats or a kind word. I carried dog treats and asked if people wanted to give her some and they did.
One woman in her eighties wheeled over in her wheelchair from inside her room out into her doorway, and we had a nice chat. She told us about her daughter’s dog and a family dog they had had for years. She made me promise that Ember would return for another visit.

When we had done two laps of the floor we returned to Dad’s room. I suggested that he have a rest on his bed as he would often have a cat nap around this time of the day. Once he was settled I asked if he would enjoy Ember up on his bed for more one on one. He was thrilled and so was my golden girl laying close by his side.
My father has been unable to express emotion clearly on his face due to his Parkinson’s but for a few minutes I saw joy on his face which melted my heart.

After a quick nap Dad was eager to go walking with his walker. This is no longer an easy task, especially at day’s end, but I felt he was up to it. So off we went again, at times Dad holding Ember’s leash.

During this walk Pinky showed up, first peaking at us from behind a door, then from under a chair and finally perched on top of the Nurse’s Station counter. Ember was very curious and intrigued by Pinky’s movements.

Dinner time came before I knew it and Ember and I escorted Dad to his dinner table in the Dining Room. Ember got a movie star greeting from all the residents which was fun.

As I headed home I promised to bring her back to lift some spirits another day. Ember has been a blessing to us in so many ways. I have heard from many dog owners that have a rescue dog or take in an older dog that these dogs are genuinely grateful for their new forever homes and give back tenfold.

I highly encourage individuals or families to consider these types of dogs; your life and others will be enriched for the better.

Have you ever taken your dog to visit an elderly person?

Dogstwentyfourseven has a Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/#!/dogstwentyfourseven. Interesting articles and links are posted every week. Please click on “Like” if you are enjoying my posts and page. I am on twitter at Dogs247Becky.

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About dogstwentyfourseven

Becky White is a dog walker.She and her husband live in Toronto with their two daughters.Becky has been a dog lover all of her life and feels now is the right time to share her stories, experiences and adventures!
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11 Responses to Dogs Make Wonderful Medicine-Visiting Seniors

  1. Leslie Smith says:

    Becky: I have been faithfully following your posts, and thought this was one of your best. So sweet. And so obvious what animals can do to raise spirits. How nice that the facility your dad’s in doesn’t have any of those fussy anti-animal restrictions that some places do. In my book, any problems with allergies or stray hairs are far negated by the joy pets bring to our lives. All the best for the hols, Leslie Smith

    • Thanks Leslie for your comments, your writing has always been an inspiration for me. Dogs are amazing connectors and I am blessed to be around them daily, actually 24/7! The people I have met along the way have enriched my life with their dog stories.Give your boy a pat from me ,Cheers Becky

  2. What a very special story. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  3. Patti says:

    Just wiping the tears from eyes. So wonderful to see Ember fulfilling her spirit’s mission on this earth, love, love and more love. Happy Holiday’s Becky.

  4. kathryngayebarter says:

    You brought tears to my eyes, your words recall the many similar experiences I had with Luke and my Mom, the joy our visits brought to both her and the other residents is the best gift I’ve ever received! Way to go Becky and Ember! XO

    Gaye Barter Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher 1-416-822-1402

  5. Excellent post about dog Medicine & great story- thanks
    Dog Breeds In India

  6. Hi there, I enjoy reading all of your post. I wanted
    to write a little comment to support you.

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