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Pets Helping People

We all love our pets and know they give back to us their unconditional love as well.  It's well known that pets help us in many ways, including reducing stress in our lives and providing companionship. Some pets also help others through search and rescue work, guide dog service, medical intervention service, cancer detection, and therapy work.
One such story is told by one of our clients whose pet Ling is a Therapy Dog.  She shares their story with us in this edition of our newsletter.  We'd like to thank Karen and Ling for their work in helping others and hope their story will inspire others.

Ling, the Therapy Dog

Ling is a 10 year old "mystery mix" a neighbor found in the woods along with 7 Ling_1__2_.JPGsiblings just after they were born. Our neighbor rescued them once they were weaned and brought them home.  We took one look at Ling and fell in love. From the beginning Ling was always a sweet dog with a lapdog disposition, most content just to be by my side. In fact, our 3 year old son would put her on his lap back then and read stories to her until she fell to sleep.

One day while petting her and looking at her sweet furry face it occurred to me how womderful it wouldLing_3__2_.JPG be to share her with some folks who might enjoy some company. I thought she might make a great therapy dog.  I began obedience training and once completed I found a therapy dog organization to give me some guidance and to eventually test her (really us) for certification.   It took a little time and patience and after a few months Ling earned her Canine Good Citizen award. I explain to people who are curious about the patch on her vest that it is a good manners badge and shows she knows how to behave around people. For Ling, so much of this just comes naturally, she likes people and loves to be petted.

Next I needed to decide what kind of therapy work would suit us.  As a Registered Nurse for many years I always had an affection for the older folks I took care of. They always had such great stories to tell if you took the time to listen, and they were so appreciative of companionship. The natural answer was an assited living community. Elmcroft in Roswell welcomed us with open arms. There, Ling can visit with folks in the common areas and even go into their rooms if they wish.  Sometimes there are special requests for room visits.  Ling also spends time in the Alzheimer's Unit.  It's fun to watch her morph from family pet to working dog; the moment her vest goes on she hops in the car and is ready to go see her other family at Elmcroft.

Many of the residents will be gathered in the main living room area to greet Ling upon her Ling_2__2_.JPGarrival. She says hello to everyone, going from lap to lap, sometimes giving a gentle poke with her nose or sitting down beside a wheelchair to make sure no one is left out. The most often asked question is "what kind of dog is she?" followed by everyone guessing what type of mix she could be. The most common guesses are Collie, Shepherd, or some kind of hunting dog.  Many people also ask her age.

Something I continue to find amazing is that some of the folks suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or other types of memory loss remember Ling. They remember her name, too. Science can't explaLing_4__2_.JPGin why people who have lost so much of their ability to remember can connect with dogs this way, but they do and it's amazing to witness. For some of the folks who have limited interaction ability I will gently place their hand on Ling and help them stroke her fur, they will slowly begin to smile and relax and sometimes begin to pet her on their own.  It feels a bit like magic to see people make a connection with Ling and then begin to tell stories about their own pets from long ago.  They always thank us during and after each and every visit but I've always thought we should be the ones doing the thanking for the privelege of being part of bringing a little joy to their lives.