Last night was a night I’ve looked forward to and been nervous about for a few weeks now. It was our first visit to the nursing home after Laurie passed away a few weeks ago. I hadn’t ever anticipated that I’d be in the position of visiting and feeling emotionally vulnerable at the same time. The only previous time that has been an issue for me was after my first therapy dog passed away and I started over with Bunny.
However, I feel that it’s important for us to go. For many of the people we visit, we’re the only special visitors that they’ll have all month. Bunny works a special kind of magic with them. It doesn’t matter if the Alzheimer’s patients can remember all the words when they talk to her. It only matters that she’s patient, warm and responds to them. She makes eye contact and waits patiently for them to interact in whatever way they are able to.
The truth is, therapy dogs do a lot for people’s health and well-being just by their presence. People’s heart rates lower, they smile and relax more and it jogs the memories of many of the people we see. One lady tells me a story about her dog, Daisy, who was a circus dog before she got her and knew tons of tricks. Another lady keeps a special stash of treats in her room for the dogs. It’s obviously something a lot of the residents look forward to.
I find that it’s good for me, as well. No matter what kind of crazy day vie had teaching PreK, I’m always glad I got back in the car and drove over to the nursing home with Bunny. I find that while I’m there visiting, a lot of my cares slip away. It reminds me not to waste my youth on worries when I could be making memories. It relaxes me, too and I find myself smiling and laughing more during and after our visits.
Finally, I think it’s good for Bunny, too. She doesn’t hesitate about going up to people to get attention and let them pet her. Her tail wags while we’re there and after we’re done. She sleeps hard when we get home, so I know she’s gotten a physical and mental workout. If I didn’t think she enjoyed it, and I have had dogs that I felt did not, I wouldn’t keep taking her. Actually, she’s doing so well that I’m considering doing some hospice work with her.
I think a lot of times when we think about our dogs being in good shape, we forget that there’s more to it than just the physical body. Being stimulated by different experiences is just as important for our dogs as it is for humans. If we keep them in the same routine, we put them at higher risk for Canine Cognitive Disorder. They need to smell new smells and see different things just as much as we do to keep having good mental health.
In the end, I am glad we went back last night. There were some people who really needed to see the dogs and Bunny needed a chance to work her magic. I needed a chance to remember why I love doing the visits, and last night was a great opportunity for that. Once we got started, I really didn’t have time to dwell on losses, just on the warm glow that doing a good deed provides.
It’s the FitDog Friday Blog Hop sponsored by Peggy’s Pet Place and SlimDoggy. It’s a chance to blog about pet fitness news, diet and nutrition, healthy activities, ways to exercise with your dog, photos of your dog in agility, or anything related to health, exercising and burning calories together with your furry best friend.