Pets provide unconditional love and joy through their companionship. The Baird Nursing Home in Irondequoit incorporates pet therapy as a resource for residents and suggests families look into programs that connect trained animals with seniors.
Human and animal interaction, specifically with dogs or cats, provides psychological, physical and social benefits. Pet therapy can be used in various settings, including hospice, rehabilitation, senior care living, senior home care and hospitals.
Diane Kelly contacted Kristina Lotz, activities director, to ask about opportunities to visit the nursing facility with her certified dog, Cali.
“I was familiar with the Baird Nursing Home from visiting a relative who had been a resident there,” Kelly said. “I’ve been going to the nursing home with Cali for the past two years. I found Cali to be so obedient and she interacted well with people of all ages, I wanted to pursue a certification for Cali to become a therapy dog.”
Kelly and Cali are certified through Therapy Dogs International. The organization requires specific testing for dogs to become a therapy dog. Yearly certification is needed, along with updated health information and annual fees. Dogs that are a part of TDI wear a red bandana with its motto “Paws a While for Love.”
“Animals have to be over 1 year of age, clean and healthy, with updated shots, obey commands, sit for long periods of time, remain calm in chaotic situations, and be especially responsive to the ‘leave it’ command,” Kelly said.
Baird utilizes robotic pets, along with real ones. The robotic pets react to auditory stimulation, and create sounds and movement. Any animal, robotic or real, can bring positive responses from residents, displayed through mood change and alertness.
“Even through short interactions with animals, the brain releases chemical reactions lowering blood pressure, heart rate and stress,” said Katrina Rudolph, Baird director of nursing. “For older generations, the incorporation of animals into their lives can help with boosting their health from depression or anxiety to heart disease and stroke prevention.”
Those interested in volunteering their pet as a therapy animal can visit or contact a local pet store for class information.
Pet therapy brings people to a happy place and they remember their pets from years ago,” Kelly said. “I enjoy seeing the smiles and reminiscing with individuals, and Cali loves the attention as well.”