The residents at Heritage Hill Senior Community in Weatherly, PA have always benefited from a monthly visit from a therapy dog. Lately, however, they’ve had another adorable reason to smile. Their special guest, a Bulldog puppy named Mikey, makes sure his contagious personality reaches everyone in the room. He isn’t a therapy dog (yet), but he does a great job at spreading happiness to the residents that need it most.
When Mikey comes into work with his mom, memory care director Sara Kahr, everyone knows it’s going to be a good day. Sara saw first-hand how therapy dogs helped her residents feel more confident and less stressed, and when she got a new puppy, she had a great idea. She knew Mikey’s outgoing personality would be a perfect match for her residents in the memory care neighborhood. Three days a week, Mikey visits the residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. They might not remember his name, but they’re always happy to see him.
Mikey’s rounds through the center attract smiles everywhere he goes. Residents enjoy spending time petting him and giving belly rubs, and they also take part in his basic care. They take him on walks through the hallways and play with all his puppy toys. Mikey has a great time soaking up attention, and the residents benefit from a puppy’s special breed of health and healing.
Studies show petting a dog triggers a release of feel-good hormones that lower stress and make people feel happier. Interacting with a dog has also shown to lower blood pressure, and playing with a rambunctious puppy and going on short walks is a good form of exercise. It’s a win-win relationship for everyone involved.
The care team at Heritage Hill Senior Community fully believe in the power of dogs. They enlist help from Mikey and certified therapy dogs, and they also encourage residents to keep their own pets. Their mission is to help families stay together, and they believe having a furry companion is good for both the physical and emotional health of their residents. One day, they hope to re-introduce Mikey as an officially certified therapy dog. For now, however, he and his friends are content with the way things are. He’s already a pro at making people happy, and he plans to keep up the good work.
Featured image screenshot via WNEP