Sharing the Love: Therapy Dogs and Elderly Memory Patients

 5/10/2016

Sniff & Barkens - May 5, 2016 - "Seniors suffering from dementia, with its accompanying memory loss and cognitive dysfunction, inevitably feel confused and lonely. But when a four-legged friend walks over with a wagging tail and dabs a soft tongue on their hand, it has a calming effect and bring smiles to otherwise blank faces. Pet therapy may not have complete scientific data to prove its worth, but anecdotally it packs a punch. For low functioning seniors, dogs appear to provide companionship, comfort, and even laughter, enhancing their quality of life...

Inside Haven, a few guests are having breakfast, a couple of women are playing cards with a caregiver and a resident at another table has nodded off. “I Could Have Danced All Night” from “My Fair Lady” is playing in the background. All the songs played are drawn from eras when these seniors were in their prime, making them most likely to sound familiar.

Nearby, seven other residents have gathered in a bright and airy room waiting for the official therapy dog, Ash, to arrive … but before he does Forest prances in to check on his elderly friends. He knows each one and, to varying degrees, they know him. Either way, their faces light up as he dances by.

Ash and his handler, Lisa Erving, come in a short while later. Ash is a magnificent 6-year-old long-coat Akita. He is larger than life, as sturdy and low key as Forest is delicate and bubbly.

A devoted team, Ash and his Lisa have completed almost 700 therapy visits, regularly going to diverse places, such as the Boys and Girls Club of LA, United Paws at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles Mission, Jewish Home for the Aging, and the Special Olympics. They work through Silverado Hospice and Lend A Paw (a program of New Leash on Life), making appearances at least twice a week all around the LA basin...

Lisa says, 'There are so many reasons why I love pet therapy, but the best part of being a handler is making the world a bit more beautiful, with the help of my best friends.'"

Read the full article here.

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