July 30, 2013 - 8:30 AM
PENTICTON - Faces light up when Angelo enters any of the rooms at the Trinity Care Centre which is precisely the reaction staff want to see.
The small white dog was waiting with his handler Diana MacDonald and resident Betty Crowe, 86, in the front foyer Monday morning. The pooch sat on Crowe's lap, with his head down, enjoying the pets and smiles he was getting from her and passersby.
It's this interaction which makes therapy dogs so valuable, MacDonald explained. She has been training and approving canines for the St. John's Ambulance therapy dog program for years. She has visited hospitals and hospices as well as senior care homes like Trinity.
MacDonald said therapy dogs have a way of eliciting responses from sometimes unresponsive elderly people. The dogs, whether big or small, can elicit memories of childhood pets or evoke memories of animals given away before coming to live at the Trinity Care Centre. Then there are the physical benefits. Petting animals is known to lower blood pressure. The therapy dogs also generate conversations about animals between the handler and the clients.
MacDonald said she counts Betty as "one of my best friends."
Crowe has had dogs throughout her life and what she likes about Angelo is his ability to focus on the person he's with and not get distracted. MacDonald pointed out her therapy dogs and their handlers go through testing and training to make sure they can work with the public.
After Crowe said goodbye to Angelo, he was walked through the halls and made periodic stops to meet and greet old friends such as Leo. The elderly man's face lights up with a smile when the pooch was placed in his lap. Jim, another client, came around the corner in his walker and stopped to chat and stroke Angelo's chin.
The two men commented on how similar Angelo's hair, his fur, was to their own. "He has more that's all," Joe said of Angelo.
Another one of Angelo's female friends giggled as soon as the dog was gently lowered in her lap. A staff member walked by and started talking. MacDonald said staff as well as clients enjoy the visits from the different dogs.
The next stop was Hilda's room who was waiting patiently in her chair. Angelo was placed on her lap but squiggled to the left for Hilda to make room. She said Angelo enjoys sitting on the chair beside her.
"This is the dearest little dog," Hilda says.
For more information on this therapy dog program or to volunteer as a handler call Sandy Karr at 250-493-5537.
To contact a reporter for this story, to send photos or videos, email Shannon Quesnel at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 250-488-3065 or tweet @shannonquesnel1
Angelo the therapy dog meets two friends on Monday at the Trinity Care Centre.
(SHANNON QUESNEL /InfoTel Multimedia)
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