I have been taking Roxie to do her therapy work for about 4 years. When we started going to memory care facilities, little did I know how important those early experiences would become.
I have to admit, I didn’t really prep Roxie for her therapy dog certification. She easily breezed through 14 of the 15 test events. The 15th required her to leave food alone that was easily within reach. On the second attempt, she managed to resist and viola! She received her credentials.
Therapy Dog for Memory Care Residents
Since then, I’ve taken her to a variety of nursing homes and assisted living communities. But we always seemed to find ourselves in memory care units. I remember one visit to a facility we had already visited several times. Every time, I would speak with the wife of one of the residents who told me that her husband always loved dogs and together, she and I would work to awaken her husband so he could pet Roxie. But he was always unresponsive. This particular time, the wife was determined to connect Roxie and her husband. She took her husband’s hand and placed it on Roxie’s head. Her husband immediately opened his eyes wide, grinned with delight and reached to pull Roxie closer to him. It was one of those defining moments that made me realize therapy dog work was worth doing.
Now It’s Personal
So now, fast forward four years later. We are still visiting memory care communities, but the stakes are much higher.
Earlier this year, my father became a resident of a memory care unit. And instead of brightening up the days of strangers, it is my father who gets the bulk of the love and attention from Roxie.
They once had a very special bond. Several times a week, my dad would drive Roxie to the local dog park so she could romp with the other dogs and Dad could socialize with the humans and the canines. (I actually think he enjoyed the canines more.)
My mother and I had already suspected that my dad’s memory was failing, but it came to a crescendo when he called her one day after leaving the dog park, unable to remember the way home.
So now, Roxie and I do our therapy work where dad lives and I’m grateful for the few years of experience that we gained before my dad became a resident. Because now Roxie and I know exactly how to best serve him and his fellow residents.