‘When we go in, everybody is happy to see him, it’s kind of like walking in with a rock star’
When Lisa Denvir and her British golden retriever, Duffy, walk into Streamway Villa for one of their visits, residents’ faces light up and everyone wants to know what Duffy has been up to since they last saw him.
“When we go in, everybody is happy to see him, it’s kind of like walking in with a rock star,” Lisa tells The OMNIway.
“They all see Duffy, I’m not sure that they see me, but that’s why we’re there.”
Lisa and Duffy are a St. John Ambulance therapy dog team that has been visiting the Cobourg long-term care home for almost a year.
During their visits, the duo meets with residents and their family members for some time together in a common area, and then the pair has one-to-one visits with residents in their rooms.
The highlight of these visits for residents is learning about what their canine friend has been up to since they last saw him, Lisa says.
“They’re very happy to see him, they’re very happy to hear about what he has been up to during the week,” Lisa says.
Perhaps the greatest difference Duffy is able to make during his visits is the calming effect he has on residents affected by cognitive impairment.
“If somebody is having a rough day, you can just feel the energy shift,” Lisa says. “Duffy is a very happy dog and he always looks like he’s smiling. That helps shift the energy and he helps get people’s minds off things if they’re having a bad day; he’s really like a breath of fresh air.”
Lisa says Duffy can also help bring back fond memories for residents living with dementia by triggering memories of dogs they had owned. This can generate meaningful conversations.
“They will talk about the dogs that they had as kids, and it’s really a good opportunity to reminisce, and to pet a dog has a calming effect,” she says.
“It gives a focus to the conversation and they don’t have to struggle to communicate because those memories are right there for them.”
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