Therapy Dog

There are many reasons to love dogs.  Each dog has his or her own unique personality.  Since I was revisiting old photos recently, I discovered this set of not-so-great-shots of one of the best dogs ever, Bogart.

Unfortunately, Bogart is no longer with us.  But, for over half of his life, he acted as a therapy dog at the assisted living facility where my aunt lived for the last 6 years of her life.

Bogart went to visit every two weeks.  We would sit in the common area outside the dining room at lunch time on Sundays.  As the residents would come out of the dining room, they would stop and pet Bogart.  As a therapy dog, Bogart’s job was to look cute, be calm, and accept love and affection from anyone who wanted to offer it.  He was really good at his job.

Because many of the residents suffered from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, the conversation was the same every two weeks:

“Oh, my!  I’ve never seen such a big dog!  How much does he weight?”

“He has gray on his face–how old is he?”

“What’s his name?”

“How much does he eat?”

These questions were typically repeated about every 3 minutes by each resident.  I went mentally prepared to repeat the answers endlessly with a tone of voice that sounded like I’d never been asked those questions before.  I concentrated on how much they loved my dog and how much joy he brought to them–that made irritation impossible.

Interestingly, my aunt had always been afraid of Bogart prior to his visits.  I don’t know if she just forgot her fear as part of the process of dementia or if seeing others enjoy petting him made her feel proud that he was there to see her and she wanted to claim him.  Whatever the reason, she went from only being comfortable looking at him from a distance to enjoying sitting right next to him and petting his head.

There was one lady in particular who loved Bogart.  I always thought she would be able to remember him because she loved him so much.  And she did remember him sometimes.  But if she missed one of his visits, we would start over the next time we came in.  Although, there is something to be said for being able to be joyfully surprised by the same thing over and over again.

Bogart clearly knew the people.  He knew who was comfortable enough with him that he could stick his giant head in their lap, who was nervous and preferred if he kept his distance, and who would figure out a way to rub his belly, even if it meant they would need to sit in a chair and use their foot because they couldn’t bend over so well.

It made visits with my aunt something I looked forward to–Bogart was quite the ambassador.