Pet-therapy sessions ‘Shine’ on outside Riverview Manor

Heidi Croal, her daughter, Alivia, and greyhound, Shine, are pictured here outside Riverview Manor on April 27.

Beloved greyhound and his owner get a warm reception while visiting residents through their windows

PETERBOROUGH, Ont. – On a sunny spring morning, Shine, a happy, playful greyhound, stands next to his owner, Heidi Croal, and peeks through the window of a resident’s room at Riverview Manor.

A big smile spreads across the resident’s face as she waves at Heidi, Shine and Heidi’s daughter, Alivia, who has joined them outside the Peterborough long-term care home.

On April 27, Heidi, Alivia and Shine circled Riverview Manor, visiting every window to wave at residents and hold hand-printed signs of support for them to see.

Coming to residents’ windows for scheduled visits is one small way Heidi, a volunteer with East Central Therapy Dogs, and Shine, her certified therapy dog, can continue to make a difference to residents during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

Riverview Manor, along with OMNI Health Care’s other 17 long-term care homes, is closed to everyone but essential visitors to protect residents and team members during the pandemic.

As a result, volunteer-led programming, including pet therapy sessions, are on hold until restrictions are lifted.

Heidi and Shine started volunteering at Riverview Manor in November. Shine, who was adopted from a racetrack in Wheeling, West Virginia, has become a fan-favourite with Riverview Manor residents, who have been missing their pet-therapy sessions, Heidi says.

“The residents really miss this,” Heidi says of the pet-therapy programming. “(But) it is really great to see the smiles on the residents’ faces.”

Tall, lean and sinewy with a gentle disposition, Shine is a “perfect” dog for visiting long-term-care home residents, Heidi says.

“The residents don’t have to bend down to pet him; they can stay in their wheelchairs and he is right there for them to give residents hugs and smiles,” she says. “They love it.”

Although residents cannot interact with Heidi and Shine inside the home while restrictions are in place, the positive reactions they received from residents through the windows was a testament to the value the pair brings to the home.

“They say if you can smile once a day, it changes your whole perspective for the day,” Heidi says.

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