Assisted living facility adopts communal pet

Staff Writer John Coffelt Autumn Oaks Assisted Living facility has recently adopted a mascot of sorts that will help improve the quality of life of many of its residents. Her name is Daisy Duke and she’s a Pomeranian-Dachshunds mix – adorable by any standard. “When we have someone bring in a dog, (the residents) get really excited, so our new activities director…asked if we could get a dog,” said Autumn Oaks Administrator Tina Taylor.

She explained that Autumn Oaks is a pet-friendly facility, and that other facilities in the Americare system already have dogs. “We went to the pound Monday (April 18) and she was the only animal there that wasn’t a pit-bull. Pits are loving, but they are too big and could easily knock down a resident.” Taylor confided that seeing Daisy surrounded by big dogs, she couldn’t have left the little canine there. “Daisy had been dropped off that morning by her owner, and we decided to adopt her,” Taylor said. She noted that in an interesting twist, Daisy’s owner was admitted to a different assisted living facility that does not allow pets. “There are so many times that people have animals in their homes,” said eldercare advisor Ashley Walker. “We’re pet friendly so they can bring their dogs if they can take care of them.” She said that Daisy’s adoption was a win-win situation. “They get to love on her, and we do all the care.” One of Daisy’s newest best friend is Mary Lou Rogers, a resident at the facility. “She gets up every morning and curls up on my bed. She’ll see me in the hall and jumps up in my lap. She can jump all the way into my chair all by herself.” Taylor said that Daisy is well-behaved and will stop at the kitchen doorway. Science has documented the benefits of owning a pet. Often it is just as difficult to measure the smile that a dog adds to a person’s day. “While it may be difficult to quantify the benefits of dog therapy with hard scientific, empirical fact, the magical interaction possible between animal and human can be unmistakable. Tears dry. Frowns transform to smiles. Inactive hands caress soft fur. Silence becomes a conversation of coos whispered in a dog’s ear,” writes Steven Reiman in his conclusion of his piece, “Therapy Dogs in the Long-Term Health Care Environment.” According to the Therapy Dogs organization, “Through their own zest for life, dogs help people maintain a positivity. A positive attitude is key to good health, happiness, and staying young. They point out that pets fulfil the need to be needed and that to touch and be touched, citing research by Dr. Michael McCulloch, a Portland, Oregon, psychiatrist, and Dr. Samuel Corson, of Ohio State University. Touch is a primary need that we’re born with and one of our last needs to go. In eldercare that is something residents lack, the feeling that they are needed. Pets allow them, even if for a short time, to be nurturers once again. Also, in a very real physical sense, residents can stroke their warm, furry visitors, facilitating social behavior and encouraging physical movement. Unconditional Love Dogs love almost everyone without prejudice. Often, they are aware of illness and sadness and want to provide companionship and comfort. Therapy dogs and their handlers can make a resident come alive, ultimately, inviting residents back to the world outside the facility in which they live. According to Therapy Dogs, pets also • Bring joy and laughter to daily life, which in later years is often uneventful • Give the person something to do, talk about and think about, other than him or herself • Provide a source of touch and affiliation • Heighten self-confidence, esteem, and a sense of achievement • Increase communication between elderly residents and neighbors • Help newcomers meet new friends • Boost overall morale • Stimulating exercise and activity • Help people cope with illness, loss and depression • Lower stress levels • Encourage communication • Remind residents of their own pets Daisy is not a registered therapy dog, but that doesn’t diminish her value. According to the American Kennel Club, dogs have been increasingly important in therapy. “Since the 1980’s, there have been significant advances in the field of animal assisted therapy and the use of therapy dogs. Organized therapy dog groups provide educational material to volunteers, they screen both volunteers and dogs, and they provide liability insurance for when the dog and handler are volunteering in a therapy setting,” according to the group’s website.

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