I didn’t know how he would react but I was ready to try anything to brighten his day and relieve some of the stress we were both feeling. His daily walks were a thing of the past. His diet was severely restricted and either he wasn’t sleeping well or he was sleeping all the time. Mike and I discussed it and decided to contact some people we knew who trained therapy dogs and request a home a visit. We had heard stories of how people in nursing homes and hospitals would smile and begin to share stories about pets they had when the friendly animals came to visit. Nurses and staff members reported that patients were happier and more alert for hours, and in some cases days, after they dogs left. We felt it was worth a try.
I wish I had a picture of that visit. I had let Rodger know he was going to have two visitors, one of them a dog. He was skeptical at first.
“What am I gonna do with a dog? I can’t walk no more. Who will clean up after it?”
“The dog isn’t going to live here. He’s coming for a short visit.”
“For something different. To help pass the time.”
“Do what you want. I hope it doesn’t pee on the floor.”
Rodger rarely smiled but when a beautiful golden retriever slowly entered the room and sat at his feet he couldn’t help himself.
After introducing herself and her dog, who was wearing a vest identifying him as a therapy dog, the volunteer sat quietly and allowed Rodger and Casey to get acquainted.
Shortly after the smile appeared Rodger slowly leaned over and tentatively began to pet Casey.
“Did you have a dog as a pet when you were a boy?” the volunteer asked.
“No. No pets. In the old country dogs are for working. Not like here where pets are spoiled.”
And then he began to talk. He spoke about life on the farm. For a while he went back to a time and place where he was able to walk outside in the sun and work up an appetite for homemade pasta and oven fresh bread. He sat up straighter and the light so rarely seen in his eyes made an appearance. I could feel my neck muscles relax as I watched the transformation. He may not have had a pet growing up, and to him dogs were meant to work, but what he didn’t seem to notice was that this one was working too. Casey was working a little bit of magic for both of us and for that I was grateful.
For more information on the positive impact dogs can have on loved ones with dementia go to:
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