Shared from the 3/6/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition


Fluffy dogs help residents at senior homes


Daisy, a Great Pyrenees dog living at the Landing at Stone Oak, a Franklin Park home for seniors, gets a belly rub Feb. 21.

Photos by William Luther / San Antonio Express-News

Mary Richter pets Doc, a Great Pyrenees dog that provides companionship to residents at the Franklin Park Alamo Heights senior community, on Feb. 21. Doc, a God’s Dog Rescue dog, joined the Franklin Park staff in July 2016.

William Luther / San Antonio Express-News

Mary Richter (right) pets Doc as the Great Pyrenees companion dog makes rounds at the Franklin Park Alamo Heights senior community on Feb. 21.

She lumbers down the wide halls of the Landing at Stone Oak, seeking those in need of an emotional rescue.

They say Daisy the Great Pyrenees dog can sense when someone in the memory care community is out of sorts. Without prompting, she will plop down at the person’s feet, causing irritations and anxiety to melt away.

Staff members say she’s helped family members deal with the transition of loved ones into the senior living community. They tell stories of times her presence has sparked a resident’s fond memory of a pet from days gone by. And there was the time she curled up beside a dying resident, soothing her in her final moments.

Being intuitive is in Daisy’s nature, they say, just as it was for the good Samaritan who rescued her after a car struck her and left her broken on the side of a local road.

Daisy is one of three Great Pyrenees at three Franklin Park communities, two in San Antonio and one in Boerne. Like Daisy, each dog lives at their respective communities. And they’re hard workers.

About the only time Daisy clocks out is around 6 p.m., when she’ll slip behind the administrative counter for a nap. Then a short time later she’ll lope back out, receiving smiles, waves and greetings from residents, who all consider her their personal companion.

According to the American Kennel Club, the breed known as the Pyrenean mountain dog developed its traits of devotion and guardianship as a companion of shepherds.

Studies have shown that pets in general help lower blood pressure and help prolong the life of heart attack patients. A Mayo Clinic report found animal-assisted therapy helps reduce anxiety, depression, fatigue and pain in people with health problems.

David Ewing, vice president of senior living operations at the Franklin, developed the pet program. He said being affectionate is an inherent trait of Great Pyrenees.

Like Daisy, Maggie has been treated by residents at Franklin Park Boerne as a personal pet since she arrived in September 2016. Some make room on their beds for the furry dog to sidle beside them when she visits.

“What we’re looking to do is interact with our residents,” said Ewing, who owns a Great Pyrenees named Sally. “You see a light in their eyes that’s just phenomenal to see.”

In July 2016, Doc joined the team at Franklin Park Alamo Heights from God’s Dog Rescue, a 501 (c)3 nonprofit.

Staff members recalled how his presence lifted the spirits of a resident’s daughter who lived out of town and was worried about her father’s health. During a visit, Doc walked over to the woman and leaned against her as if aware of her pain. The dog wouldn’t leave until the daughter lavished attention upon the rescue dog.

Cynthia Morris, executive director of the Landing, said the pet therapy program brings a sense of peace to the residents. She said the program and an aromatherapy room are a few of the approaches used as an alternative to medication.

“She just gravitates to residents that need a little TLC,” Morris said of Daisy. “She’s been a blessing, she’s good for the staff and the families.”

Bobby Beecher’s family was concerned how he would fare after he had to leave his dog, Abigail, when he moved to the Landing. Their worries went away after watching the retired salesman interact with Daisy.

“Daisy, come see me,” Beecher, 90, said recently as the dog entered his room. “You’re a pretty baby.”

His daughter, Dana Galante, 56, said Daisy has made a difference in her father’s life and all memory care communities should have similar programs.

“It’s like God meant it to be,” she said. “She just has a sixth sense.”

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