Senior Citizen Notes, June 14, 2010 June 16, 2010 ^
Pets Volunteer Too!
Far from being a cat or dog lover, in actual fact I might be seen running in the opposite direction if at all possible, so strong is my apathy for four legged creatures. I did however find my own ears perking up recently when a friend recounted her story of taking a favorite pooch to be trained as a hospice and nursing home volunteer. I did a double take upon hearing that the pet was being trained to volunteer not just the human herself. This seemingly is not an entirely new phenomenon at all as there is a growing trend to train therapy pets.
Several area organizations have been recruiting pet owners to train with their dogs, cats, hamsters etc to become friendly visitors to frail older adults usually in area nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and also to visit with children who have serious illness and those with learning disabilities. I was really curious to see how widespread this service is available in Greater Boston so took to my keyboards in search of answers. I have listed below the organizations for which I could find contact details. The resource organizations listed below on their websites or call them directly will give you information on facilities that are currently offering friendly pet visiting to their residents.
What really brought the potential value of this service home to me was hearing about an older “friend” who had been living in an apartment all alone with two cats, the loves of her life. She has no extended family around and her cats were showered with affection and were for years her constant companions. Although she was getting to the point that she could not really look after herself anymore or be left safely over night she strongly resisted moving to a nursing home.
Mostly she was worried about what would happen to the cats and how would she live without them. The trauma of the move was distressing enough, but not being able to bring her “family” with her was really tough. Eventually she had little choice but to move to a nursing home, the transition being eased a little by her care givers providing a new soft toy pet resembling her real ones and the promise of scheduled visits by a therapy pet.
If you know someone who is moving into an assisted living facility or nursing home in the area I recommend asking the admissions office if their center offers a visiting therapy dog/ pet program. Several of the larger hospitals in the city also offer visits in their pediatric departments. To rub, cuddle or pet a friendly cat, dog or hamster is said to lift ones spirits and keep ones blood pressure down, that is assuming you are not allergic. Enjoy…
Caring Canines Visiting Therapy Dogs, Inc. is an all-volunteer, non-profit canine pet therapy program serving the Boston area. Established in 2001, they currently have over 100 volunteer dog/handler teams and serve over 60 facilities. www.caringcanines.org
Caritas Norwood Hospital — Pet Activity program
800 Washington Street, Norwood, MA 02062
Volunteer Department 781-278-6322
Greater Boston area
Massachusetts Pet Partners
An affiliate of Delta Society
105 Chauncy Streeet – Suite 801
Pets and People, Inc.
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