Pet Therapy at St. Leonard

Posted by: Kelly Lance - Thursday, May 2, 2019

St. Leonard is very blessed to have several pet therapy teams visit our campus.  Our volunteers and their dogs have contributed significantly over the years to bringing warmth and joy to residents. The dogs have a way of lifting spirits, bringing smiles and warming hearts while they are here.

In addition to spreading happiness, studies have shown that interacting with a friendly pet can help many physical and mental issues. It can help reduce blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.

For the past 12 years, Iris Carter and Peggy Wittmer, members of Miami Valley Pet Therapy, have been bringing their therapy dogs to St. Leonard to socialize with our residents in Traditional Assisted Living, Dayaway and SDR.  Belle, Vinnie and Ella are pros when it comes to bringing smiles to our residents faces.  One of the other wonderful benefits of our pet therapy teams is that they allow our residents to reminisce about pets they had throughout their lives.  Sometimes, the conversations take a different turn.

Iris recently had a wonderful encounter with a resident.   Iris shared her story of “Waiting in the Lunch Line.”  “Two men with walkers were waiting outside of the dining room in assisted living.  One of the walkers had a special license plate on the front that said “Indiana WW2”, and indicated that this man had been in the Navy.  “What kind of ship were you on?” I asked.  “Aircraft carriers” he said. I told him that my husband had been on destroyers.  I asked him if he remembered the mail being delivered over lines between the destroyers and the carriers and he said, “Oh yes!”  The conversation continued and he recited every place in the world he had been while in and out of the Navy. I can’t help but say that even though he was a bit slow getting up out of his seat when the dining room doors opened, his mind was going full speed around the world when he shared his experiences.”

Volunteer Vicki Fortman has been bringing her dog Fenway to SDR for the past 4 years.  When Fenway comes through the doors, everyone knows him!  His tail goes 90 miles an hour as he greets our residents.

Another well know team around campus are the Farrells, Jack and Carol, and their dog Aspen.  Jack visits with Aspen at the Health Care Center and says that Aspen loves visiting St. Leonard. “He runs to get to the door when they get there!  It still amazes me how much he enjoys visiting the residents.” Carol spends time visiting with Aspen in Chaminade and SDR.

Other pet therapy teams seen around campus the past few years include Debra Slusser with Carrah and Deb Cullman with Shaq.

Last month, two new teams started visiting.  Jack Fiala and Scout will be visiting residents in SDR, and Deb Wenz and Neela will be visiting Dayaway.

We are “forever” grateful to our pet therapy teams for always showing us a “tail waggin’ good time.”