Pet therapy at Country Terrace.

Country Terrace going to the dogs

Pet therapy program enhancing quality of life

Pet therapy’s positive impact on people with cognitive impairment is well documented, and the Country Terrace team sees these benefits every time a St. John Ambulance therapy dog visits the home, says Veronica Couto.

Couto, the Komoka long-term care home’s activity director, says residents look forward to the dogs and their owners visiting the home every Wednesday and Friday. Many residents, she adds, form strong connections with the animals.

Many residents were pet owners themselves at some point, so seeing the dogs brings back memories.

“The second they see the dogs they light up,” Couto tells the OMNIway. “They’re full of smiles, they’re happy, they’re calling the dogs over and they just start reminiscing — reminiscing about their own dogs.

“They become very inquisitive, they want to know everything about the dogs and hold them and cuddle them,” she says.

When volunteers first bring their therapy dogs to the home, Couto orientates them and provides the dog owners with a list of residents who she thinks would benefit most from pet therapy. From there, the animals and their owners are introduced to residents.

In addition to visits from St. John Ambulance dogs and their owners, life enrichment worker Amanda Guthrie has a puppy she regularly brings for extra pet therapy, which “residents are loving,” Couto says.

Another staff member, Emily Van Wieren, has put her dog through the St. John Ambulance training, and she plans on bringing her dog to the home for pet therapy.

Couto says the dogs have the greatest impact on residents who are living with cognitive impairment. Many of these residents do not participate in any programming. But when the dogs come to the home, they want to visit with them.

In fact, Couto says the canine visitors are an important factor in increasing quality of life for residents.

“And that’s what our purpose is here at Country Terrace,” she says.

Click here to read a recent OMNIway story about Woodland Villa volunteer Bridget Le Touze and her St. John Ambulance-trained dog Finnigan.

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