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Dogs serve a therapeutic service to residents at Pa. facility

April 05, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Connie Smith, a resident of ManorCare Health Services, did some baking Sunday for some very appreciative friends at the home's Spring Fling Open House.

"I baked cookies for the dogs. I took a cookie cutter and cut them out," said Smith, who moved from Fayetteville, Pa., to the home about a year ago.

The dogs, more than a dozen of them, got to enjoy peanut butter-flavored biscuits in the shape of paw prints, dogs and bones.

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"I love them," Smith said of the dogs, members of Kindly Canines, a group of animals and their handlers that come by the home to entertain and soothe the residents.

"This is an open house that's tied in with the dog therapy we have at the facility," said Carol Garling, ManorCare's activities director.

Garling said the dogs and handlers come to the home on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

"We've found that when a dog comes in for a visit, there are several benefits," said Garling.

A visit with an animal can help lower blood pressure and help residents who feel depressed or agitated.

Sometimes, the dogs are the only visitors for those without family or friends "and the higher-functioning residents just love them," Garling said.

"We have 26 dogs in various stages of the program," said Marti Heater, who founded Kindly Canines last August after moving to Chambersburg from Coopersburg, Pa. There, she was involved with another certified dog therapy group, Paws with Patience, along with her golden retriever, Sammi, and Callie, an English setter.

Sammi and Callie were at ManorCare Sunday, along with most of the other Kindly Canines and their handlers, ranging in size from lap dogs such as Mary Lou Herrick's toy poodle Misty, to a huge Newfoundland named Bubba who allowed Kayleigh Greenawalt, a young visitor from Frederick, Md., to lounge against him as she read a book.

Therapy Dogs Inc. was founded in 1990 by Jack and Ann Butrick of Cheyenne, Wyo., Heater said.

To become a certified therapy dog, Herrick said, the canines have to be at least a year old, tested for temperament and certified healthy by a veterinarian.

The dogs and handlers make at least three visits to a facility with an observer before being certified, Herrick said. Dogs in training wear green scarfs, while certified canines wear red ones.

Since not everyone likes dogs, Garling said a paw print sticker is placed next to a resident's name outside his or her room to indicate a pooch is welcome.

"I love dogs so much, and if there was ever a time I wasn't able to have them with me, I'd like someone to bring them to me," said handler Emily Martin Dickey of Waynesboro, Pa., who was dressed in a blue dog suit and accompanied by Lucy, a Labrador-boxer mix.

"People pile in to see them," resident Dolly Robertson said as residents, dogs, handlers and visitors crowded together during one activity.

"I think dogs can read you," Robertson said. "People that love them, they know it."

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