Pet therapy returns to Garden Terrace

‘It was nice for them to get to see the dogs again’

It has been a long time coming, but a pet therapy program has returned to Garden Terrace, and the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home’s residents were happy to be reunited with two of their favourite canines.

On Sept. 14, residents had their first pet therapy session since the COVID-19 pandemic began 18 months ago. Two trained therapy dogs – a Labrador retriever and a Shetland sheepdog – visited Garden Terrace with their handlers from Ottawa Therapy Dogs.

To keep everyone safe during the pandemic, the program was kept outside, and mask-wearing and social distancing protocols were in effect.

Garden Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator Rachael King says residents were overjoyed to be able to visit with the dogs. The therapy dogs had been to the home before the pandemic began.

“They haven’t had pet therapy in over a year and a half, and a lot of the residents adore animals,” Rachael tells The OMNIway. “It was nice for them to get to see the dogs again.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization in March 2020, non-essential visits to Ontario long-term care homes were halted. This meant pet therapy programs were suspended.

But with high resident vaccination rates and eased restrictions, Garden Terrace residents were able to enjoy an outdoor visit with their furry friends.

“A few of the residents recognized the dogs,” Rachael says. “It was a nice day and the residents loved it.”

Rachael says outdoor visits with therapy dogs will continue for the rest of the year as long as the weather permits.

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