For a while now I have been thinking of trying our dogs as therapy dogs. I was at the vet a few weeks ago and noticed a flyer from a local nursing home asking for people to bring in their dogs to visit residents. The nursing home on the flyer was the same one my dad had been for a few weeks so I took it as a sign and signed Pepper up.
Pepper made her first nursing home visit tonight. Pepper was anxious as we entered the building, and as we waited for the activities director her anxiety grew - I think she thought we were in a vet's office and it was time for her nails to get trimmed again! As soon as we started walking around her demeanor changed and she relaxed and became the friendly dog I know and love.
Pepper worked each room we entered like a pro! She greeted the residents respectfully and let everyone get their pets in. When we encountered someone who didn't want to meet her she seemed to sense it and ignore them. She also could tell who really wanted to pet her and gave them extra time for pets. Her only challenge was when she smelled the occasional dropped cracker on the floor - then she forgot all about the residents and pursued her snack. Luckily there weren't that many snacks to find!
One resident that really made an impression on her was a woman who didn't have her teeth in and her hearing aids were out too. The activities director had to shout to get her attention when we walked in - and then she saw Pepper. The woman broke into the biggest smile of the night - all gums and bright red lips (she still had her lipstick on). She stroked Peppers ears and massaged her neck with love. They both enjoyed the experience. As we left the room, the activities director told me the woman is 102 and does all her own care and grooming. Amazing! Aside from the teeth and being hard of hearing (OK, almost deaf!) - she looked better than some 50 year olds I know!
Once again, my dogs have taught me a lesson. Pepper had equal love and attention for anyone who wanted to pet her. She didn't get put off my how someone looked, or whether they had treats for her or not. She just treated them the way they treated her, and everyone was happy.
We will be going back to the nursing home again. I may even try Bear and Shadow some time. And they , like Pepper, have lots of love give and the gift to make people smile :)