Posted by: bree1972 | November 22, 2009

A Little Help from our Four-Legged Friends 11.23.09

Last Thursday I visited two assisted living facilities with a couple of registered Delta Society therapy dogs and their human “partners”.  This is a volunteer activity I have often thought of doing over the years, but was never in the position of having the time to do it.  Now, being retired, the time is available, and I think Bear will be wonderful at this “job”.  What I didn’t realize going into the day was how connected I would immediately feel with the people we would be visiting.

I have always had a love for older folks – I’m talking about people who would be my parents’ ages if they were still living – 80’s, approaching their 90’s.  Bless their hearts, they have no much to offer us “youngsters”.  As we age, we begin to see more clearly that one day we might be where they are now – in nursing and assisted living homes, in hospital beds, or in our own homes, perhaps as shut-ins.  Very few of us will make it into our advanced years without having to seek some kind of assistance to go on with our daily activities.  Those who are able to remain independent are truly blessed. Those whose physical or mental needs dictate their loss of independence need all kinds of assistance – physical, social, and emotional.  And that is where a therapy dog can be of tremendous help.

The two dogs working on Thursday were Betty, a Portuguese Water Dog (like America’s official “first-dog”) and Charlie, a Benji-looking rescue dog.  I followed Betty and Charlie through the living spaces and private rooms of seniors at these two assisted living homes and watched those sweet, lined faces light up like sunbeams when the dogs would come close.  In so many cases, these animal lovers have had to leave behind special pets when they entered these facilities, and just to be able to pat and talk to a furry face and perhaps get a kiss from one of these friendly dogs makes their day.  In other cases, meeting the dogs may stir up a memory that is decades-old of a long-ago special pet that was loved in childhood. 

Of course, not everyone is a dog lover.  One of the partners told me that you learn really fast which residents are either afraid of dogs, or just don’t like them.  And of course, the dogs aren’t forced on anyone.  In fact, before the dogs arrive, the residents have usually been told they are coming, and given the chance of seeing them or not.  On Thursday, there were plenty of loving pats and offers of treats – sometimes residents had even saved a part of their own lunch to feed to the dogs.  Watching that, I made a mental note to go home and work with Bear on the “easy” command, when he is accepting handouts.

On Saturday, the big Delta Society home training manual arrived.  I was surprised at how many pages there were, and a little worried when I realized that Bear wasn’t the only one who would have to pass a test.  Looks like we both have our work cut out for us, but I am already looking forward to Bear and I “going to work”.

I look forward to sharing this wonderful Pet Partners program with my readers when Bear and I are registered members of Delta Society (see how confident I am)!  Hopefully, he and I will be ready to do some visits by the beginning of the year.  Once we are registered, we will be able to work anywhere in the United States where a Delta Society program is in place.  That means I should be able to find a facility near Mackinac Island to keep Bear on his toes over the summer!  We are excited!



  1. Good luck with Bear! I know he will do a great job.. I wonder what Maddie thinks of the whole ordeal, maybe she will post soon with her thoughts on the matter?

    Now I just need a therapy dog to come see me! I have been almost a month now without dogs OR horses and I am going into some serious withdrawals… Hershey isn’t too far, maybe I should pay her and Frankie a visit 🙂

  2. I’m sure Bear will pass with flying colors to become a Therapy Pet. I already know you will be great doing this.
    Yesterday Jim (husband) and I took a little tour of Northern IN in the fall. We went to the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area. This is a resting place for the sandhill cranes who fly south for the winter. We had never been there before but it was a great sight to see. As the sun began to set the cranes started coming in for the night. We stayed until way after sunset and the cranes continued to fly in. These cranes are on their way to southern GA and northern FL. The reason I tell you about them is my first thought on learning where the cranes are headed was are they close to you during the winter?

    • Oh my gosh, Charlotte – I hope you took pictures! What a beautiful sight that had to be. Ted read your comment this morning before I did, and he is busy researching about where the cranes go down here. If you took a picture that you’d like me to share on the blog, I’d love to do that if you can email it to me.

      Thanks for being such a loyal reader.

  3. The therapy program sounds so exciting and I don’t think Bear will have any problems at all. In fact, I think he’s just about perfect for the job! Bear is going to have to tell us all about it. 🙂

  4. I know you will both be fantastic ! A great thing to do. The patients will love you both. What a beautiful shot of Bear, he is gorgeous!!

    There is a therapy program where my 99 yr old father is. He is in the long term care unit. These are dementia and Altzheimers patients. They truly enjoy the pets. They even have a “resident” cat on that floor. The patients love him!! I know you and Bear will get a lot of love and satisfication in return!!

    Judy, Ann Arbor

  5. Both you and Bear are destined for greatness. You both are beautiful, blond, outgoing and have good hearts. What a worthwhile endeavor. Your blog is not just for entertainment either. Look how many people you reach who need caring and prayers. The picture of Bear is beautiful but we also need pictures of you. xxoo

    • Pictures of me have to wait until YOU or JILL is around is take them!

      Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 13:48:26 +0000 To:

  6. You too will be great at that job. I’ve been thinkingof doing that with Hershey. That will give her her people fix.
    She misses the Island and all the attention she gets there.

  7. Bear is going to be a such a WONDERFUL gift that you will be sharing with all those that you two visit—I know you both will pass the tests with flying colors, NO problem! Look at all the joy he’s brought to folks he met on the island & to us, your readers thru your pics. & stories about him!

    Have to say I am soooo relieved your ‘ol laptop was revived, & your peace of mind has been restored! Am still chuckling about it- not AT you, but WITH you..”been there done that” aggravation with my computer- I once threatened mine a drop from a 2nd story window if it didn’t start behaving..I’m too far away from a ri’vah for that to work for me! Smiles, Jane

  8. Best of luck to you and Bear. I’m sure you will both be just wonderful with the program!

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