Tony had taken his dogs to visit nursing home residents every week for the past seven years. Tony said that his volunteering started with just him and “the pups” visiting one-on-one. Now his team included the three dogs as well as several humans, and they gathered each week with a group of residents for games, trivia contests, and crafts.
Tony formed a friendship with Esther and found out that she was an animal lover just like him. Esther loved getting a visit from Tony because that meant a visit from Moses, the youngest member of Tony’s visiting team of dogs. Moses was a wriggling bundle of joie de vivre, but Esther had no trouble handling him, and brightened every time she saw him.
Tony and Moses continued to deepen their friendship with Esther. Eventually, after several setbacks, Esther was able to move into independent living. Eager to help, Tony went to visit Esther in her new home, and of course, at her specific request, brought Moses along.
During that visit, Esther revealed just how difficult life had been in the nursing home, and how deeply saddened she was by all the losses that accompanied her stay. She lost her home, her cats, her freedom and personal space, but the most painful of all these losses was the death of her dear husband. Esther said that after his death, she didn’t want to go on living. It was too much to bear.
Esther told Tony, “If it hadn’t been for that dog, I don’t know if I would still be here.”
This warm little puppy, and his warm-hearted owner, gave a sad and lonely lady a reason to keep on living.
What a wonderful blessing it is for residents to receive a visit from a volunteer who brings a pet along. A visit from a cute or cuddly animal is a delight to many residents and a welcome novelty in the sameness of their days filled with loneliness and pain and boredom.
We have seen volunteers bring in dogs, cats, rabbits, birds and even farm animals to visit. Animals are one of the primary things that cause residents to open up and talk about themselves. (The other two are children and music.)
There are certain obvious requirements for pets visiting care homes, such as tags, shots, etc. You will need to ask the Activities Director for guidelines.
Never underestimate the power of a pet for brightening the day of a nursing home resident and for opening up a conversation that can begin a wonderful friendship for both you and the resident!