Visiting dog brings joy to old age home

2015-01-19 14:02
Ethel Underhill with Rodger. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)

Ethel Underhill with Rodger. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)

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Chelsea Pieterse, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - A KwaZulu-Natal old age home proved all you need is man’s best friend and some puppy love to turn your day around.

Emma Barter Old Age Home nursing sister Pat Ferguson decided two years ago to bring her beloved Border Collie, Rodger, to visit those in the home. Rodger was an absolute hit with the people of Emma Barter and since then, Ferguson has brought Rodger, 15, to visit the home every Thursday morning.

“Some of the people here have dementia and severe Alzheimer’s disease, and Rodger has made such a difference in their lives,” said Ferguson.

'My dear doggy'

Ferguson recounted the story of an Emma Barter resident who suffers from Alzheimer’s. “She does not remember people’s names and doesn’t even know what day it is, but she knows Rodger and remembers his name.”

The resident was found petting and talking to Rodger in the passage a few minutes later. “My dear doggy, I do love you, Rodger,” she said.

Ferguson said Rodger chose the people he wanted to visit and could not be told who to go to.

Regularly visited by Rodger, Ethel Underhill, 77, said she looked forward all week to visits from her friend.

Underhill said she doesn’t get many visitors, but since Rodger has been around, it doesn’t bother her too much.

“I wouldn’t exchange his visits for anything else. I love him to bits,” said Underhill.

'Highlight of my day'

Fay, 84, and Joe, 86, Mogg, residents at Emma Barter for just over a year, are usually Rodger’s first stop of the day.

“My husband always gives him biltong or leftover meat. We are quite crafty and don’t let anyone see,” said Fay with a giggle.

Rodger flopped at Fay’s feet as she sat on her bed petting his fluffy mane of hair, and spoke about her and her husband’s love for Rodger.

“Seeing Rodger is the highlight of my day. He is just adorable,” she said.

Ferguson said she believed pet therapy had many advantages and to be at a home that allowed animals was important to her.

Ferguson, a nurse for 40 years said the visits had not only made a difference for people in Emma Barter, it had made a positive difference in Rodger’s life too.

Health benefits of human-animal bond

Founder of Pets As Therapy, Charmaine French said although most dogs are just kept as pets, many dogs are used for sniffing out drugs and rescue operations.

“Do we even need to mention people with disabilities who regain some of their independence because of their faithful, highly trained service dogs?

“Service dogs are trained to assist with physical tasks and provide social support to their human partners. These dogs learn 40 commands to enhance the independence of people with ailments ranging from spinal cord injuries to multiple sclerosis,” said French.

“Positive physical, psychological, psychosocial, motivational and educational benefits have been linked to the presence of companion animals.

“For example, reduction in blood pressure, heart rates and stress levels, as well as increases in emotional well-being and social interaction, are proven benefits occurring from the human-animal bond,” French added.

French said interaction with a dog and other furry animals has a very positive effect on their quality of life and interaction with pets can improve their recovery time after serious diseases, infections or trauma.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  good news  |  animals

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