Pet Therapy Helps Elders

Every Friday, residents at the Sippican Health Care Center (SHC) in Marion are treated to a visit from a gentle Scottish terrier who enjoys having her belly rubbed. Abby comes with her owner, Carolyn Moore, and walks around the common areas and individual rooms visiting the many residents who enjoy the weekly opportunity to gush over the tail-wagging purebred Scottie.

A chance meeting brought Carolyn Moore and Abby to the facility. Marion Librarian Madeline Smith met Abby and Moore when they visited the library. Smith visits her mother at the SHC regularly and thought Abby would be the perfect dog to bring in to visit the residents. Smith spoke with Activities Director Anne Bishop O’Connell and asked if they would allow a dog to visit. After meeting Abby and Moore, pet therapy began at the center.

“They love them both,” said Bishop O’Connell. “Everyone gets excited when they visit.”

It’s clear that Abby is well-loved by both the residents and the staff. After spending time going from one wheelchair to another for affection, Abby heads for the individual rooms, visiting one on one with each resident. Moore gives doggie treats to residents who ask Abby to sit, lick, lie down or put her paws on their laps. While Moore talks with her friends, Abby lays down and sleeps until it’s time to move to the next room.

Lillian Corrado, a 97-year-old resident looks forward to Abby’s visit.

“I love dogs and we always had dogs. When I was young, our dog would come in our bed but my Papa wouldn’t allow the dog in the bed … but we let her in the bed and one time Papa came up and asked if the dog was in the bed and we said no, but he could see the tail wagging,” said Corrado as she reminisced about her family.

Scottish terriers were bred to catch rodents and small animals, but Abby doesn’t seem to have any of those traits.

“She loves cats, but cats don’t like her,” said Moore.

“We have some residents who won’t come out of their rooms but they enjoy having Abby and Carolyn visit with them,” said Bishop O’Connell.

When the two make their rounds, it’s clear that the residents enjoy Moore’s company as if she were family. Moore knows the names of both the staff and the residents and their families.

“We gained so much more than a therapy dog,” said Bishop O’Connell. “We also got Carolyn, who is a very patient and loving volunteer who is loved by all of us.”

By Joan Hartnett-Barry

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