So in our last post we were all thrilled with the news that Annabel had passed her assessment to be a Pets As Therapy dog. Yes we were – not just me. Well, we didn’t waste much time, and started our venture together today at the local nursing home. I am pleased to report that Annabel was a super star and did her new job to perfection. I was pretty sure I’d enjoy the experience, but I was unprepared for how moving it was.
It was a lovely establishment, with wonderful staff and a nice atmosphere. I was nervous signing in and going through into the day room, but the faces that lighted up on seeing my girl trot in to say hello melted away the nerves in a heartbeat.
L has bright blue eyes and a lovely smile. He was thrilled when Annabel put her head on his lap, calling over the nurse to have a look “She likes me! See?” and telling me all about the Labrador he had as a young married man.
D is a happy soul but doesn’t retain much short-term memory or new information. She forgets my name every few seconds and asks the same questions over and over again. D is really friendly and I instantly like her. “I can’t stroke her lovey,” she tells me “my hands are twisted, look” and she shows me her hands in a fixed position, I imagine due to arthritis. “Perfect for tickling her head with D. She likes that.” D smiles and tickles Annabel’s head. Annabel does indeed like it, and grunts appreciatively making D laugh.
We are then taken by a nurse to visit some private rooms, where I meet a wonderfully sharp and well dressed lady I could’ve talked to for hours, who is fascinated by the charity and the work we do. A few rooms down is a resident who seems totally in her own world. This second lady doesn’t speak to me, but spends a long time very slowly stroking Annabel’s head and whispering in her ear. I wonder what they were talking about? None of my business.
The last person in a private room we see is a very frail looking, tiny women curled in her bed and sighing deeply. Bless her, I think. In we go . . . Annabel wags her tail and puts her head onto the bed, and the lady springs to life making me jump a little. She is literally squealing with delight and laughing out loud at my lovely lurcher’s gentle hand-licks. “Fantastic!” She cries out. “Ooooh, isn’t she lovely. OOoh ‘hello beautiful!'”
As we travel back down with the nurse in the lift, she agrees that seeing the faces light up as we introduce ourselves is a very special thing, and I am surprised to feel a little emotional.
Back in the day room for a quick goodbye, some family have arrived to visit some of the residents, who point to Annabel and introduce her to their loved ones, seemingly enjoying being the giver of some different news rather that the receiver. As we are walking out the door D shouts over “Bye bye Annabel.”
And that’s why it works. Pets As Therapy give people in nursing homes the chance to be the one to impart care for a change. They give people the pleasure and chance of an unconditional cuddle, or chat that does not require a response. They make people smile. They encourage reminiscence of previous dogs the client may have owned and loved, and comfort those who may have had to give up a pet to be there. As the charity themselves put it:
“These dogs bring everyday life closer and with it all the happy associations for them of home comforts. The constant companionship of an undemanding animal, that gives unconditional love, is often one of the most missed aspects of their lives. Pets As Therapy was formed to help make this loss more bearable.” – P.A.T
We are going back next Saturday.