Pets Bring Smiles (and Wags) to Retirement Home

Pat Wells brings her dog to visit people living at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC.
PAT WELLS: "After 9/11, I wanted to do something to give back."
At first, she went alone. Then, she learned about the healing effect that animals have on people. So she started bringing her dog Rikka.
PAT WELLS: "We saw one lady that hadn't come out of her room for two weeks because she had a stroke. But when we walked into her room, she stood up, she talked to us. They said she hadn't been so happy in weeks.
We visited with people that were getting amputations the next morning and were scared, but they smiled when we walked in their room. And, I mean, sometimes it's staff that's had a stressful time. We used to have a doctor that would stop everything he was doing, and sit down on the floor and talk to each dog when we went to his floor."
The volunteers and their dogs visit the retirement home three times a month.
JAMES STYGART (RETIREMENT HOME RESIDENT): "I like all dogs, they're a good friend."
Recreational therapist Steven Briefs says the dogs help the people he cares for.
STEVEN BRIEFS: "Certainly the ones with arthritis that have lost the real function of their hands. It gives them a chance even then to pet, as best as they can, to hold and to share with the owner. It definitely helps with hypertension, less anxiety, more socialization for the residents - some of them, anyway. More feeling the sense of companionship, less loneliness. It gets them out of the room and coming down to the recreation center here. And all those things work together to brighten their day, just at least for the one day."
Volunteers like Tracy Baetz say the visits also help their dogs.
TRACY BAETZ: "He loves being petted, and he loves being around people. And it calms him down. Just makes me so proud to be able to share that aspect of his personality, and to be able to witness the effect that he has on others."
The American Kennel Club says there are more than 100 animal therapy groups nationwide. I'm Karen Leggett.

Source: VOA


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