Why Valentine’s Day went to the dogs at Kelowna retirement community - InfoNews

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Why Valentine’s Day went to the dogs at Kelowna retirement community

Craig visits with Missionwood Retirement Resort resident Doris Richter for Valentine's Day.
February 15, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Elderly residents who may have been feeling the Valentine’s Day blues got a nice serotonin boost by bonding with a few dogs and UBC Okanagan students.

Eight UBCO student volunteers and their trusty sidekicks visited the Missionwood Retirement Resort Friday, Feb. 14 as part of BARK - Building Academic Retention Through K9s - a dog therapy program under the direction of UBCO professor John Tyler Binfet.

The program has been running for eight years and has amassed 30 volunteers and 60 dogs, Binfet said.

He said it's likely one of the most researched populations to determine the effects of canine therapy has been on seniors.

"And we know it decreases loneliness and boosts well-being,” he said.  “Our students from UBC also don’t get to interact with seniors so this is a lovely way for them to interact in the community.”

Dougall the golden retriever stands in the middle of a crowd of Missionwood Retirement Resort residents and UBCO students.
Dougall the golden retriever stands in the middle of a crowd of Missionwood Retirement Resort residents and UBCO students.

Doris Richter, 97, said it was nice to see the dogs for Valentine’s Day and decided to visit after taking a nap. 

“I like dogs, but I’m not someone who is really tied to them,” she said. “We’ve had poodles in the past. I grew up a farm so we had farm dogs. Otherwise I worked all my life so I never had time for a dog.”

She said it’s nice to get a visit from the smaller dogs but not to own one.

There are several theories on why dogs are good for human health, but one is that humans have an innate desire to be with nature and other organisms, Binfet said.

“Dogs are so accessible to us and great recipients to our feedback,” he said. “I think for Valentine’s Day especially, it’s a really unique opportunity to reduce loneliness for our students and the seniors here.”

This therapy dog is helping the elderly feel at ease.
This therapy dog is helping the elderly feel at ease.

This is the first time the BARK program has made a stop at the retirement home.

“We hear stories about residents that have had dogs and we know those great memories and connections are there,” said John Eakins, with the retirement resort. Anytime the resort has an opportunity to provide residents with memories and some stimulation is a great thing, he said.


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