By Lauren Witt, Forté Group, Inc.
One weekend, staff members and residents at Sagecrest Alzheimer’s Care Center at Baptist Retirement Community noticed that they had an unexpected visitor outside the building–a terrier mix puppy. After some time had passed and the dog kept hanging around outside, nurses scooped up the friendly puppy, brought her into the secure courtyard attached to Sagecrest and offered her food and water. Then, they began texting the rest of the team to see what should be done. That’s when Lacy Gressett, Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) and Minimum Data Set Coordinator (MDS) for Baptist Retirement Community, was first alerted.
“I was out of the office that weekend but said I would be interested in meeting the puppy, whom they had dubbed “Sage” on Monday when I returned,” said Gressett. “Until then, Sage made herself at home spending time with residents in the courtyard while they gardened and sometimes coming inside and sitting in residents’ laps. The nursing team took it upon themselves to run Sage up to the local veterinarian on Main Street to see if she was microchipped, but she was not. Knowing then that she probably didn’t have a home or any kind of medical record, the nurses all pitched in to cover the cost of her first round of shots, puppy food and toys. Sage spent the rest of the weekend at Sagecrest, but it became apparent that she was too young to stay there permanently and that she would need additional training or a new home. At one point, in the midst of the staff trying to decide what to do, Sage got outside the courtyard but dug her way back in because she missed the residents and staff members so much. At that point, everyone felt like Sage was meant to stay.”
When Sage first made her debut, the residents were claiming her as their own, but the nursing team had yet to decide what should be done. Their answer came the next day, when a volunteer with Concho Valley Paws heard about the dog at the local vet. She suggested the perfect solution, which all agreed would be the most beneficial for the residents and for Sage. Concho Valley Paws offered to help get Sage spayed, assist with her additional rounds of shots and offset the costs of obedience and pet therapy training so that she could be of service to the Sagecrest residents. Gressett took it upon herself to adopt Sage and provide her with a “furever” home, not only at her personal residence, but at Sagecrest as well.
“Sage has started her obedience and pet therapy training and will be fully certified in one year,” said Gressett. “I still bring her up to Sagecrest once a week so the residents and team members can maintain familiarity with her and she can provide minimal pet therapy to the residents. We are a dog- friendly campus, as we see how much the visits brighten the residents’ days. Just last week our Director of Human Resources threw a “doggy birthday party” for her dog that just turned two, and we celebrated with a homemade doggy birthday cake. The staff brought their dogs, loved ones of residents brought their dogs and naturally, Sage also attended. There is something about little dogs and children that make the residents light up. They show more expression and are more engaged.”
Once the Executive Director of Concho Valley PAWS heard of Sage’s rescue from her volunteer, she was inspired. Wilson is now looking to share Sage’s story with other senior living communities, skilled nursing facilities and memory care homes in the hope that they too will see the benefits of adopting a dog and providing pet therapy to seniors.
“I believe things happen for a reason, and Sage’s arrival meant she was intended to be there for the residents of Sagecrest,” said Jenie Wilson, Executive Director of Concho Valley Paws. “I feel that sometimes people have needs that other people cannot see, but they are needs an animal can sense and fill, which is what makes pet therapy so beneficial. Studies have shown that pet therapy reduces depression among seniors and that building companionship with a dog or cat helps fight loneliness.”
“The residents enjoy it anytime someone brings an animal in for a visit. Pets have been a part of everyday life for many residents, and we strive to do anything we can that offers real home and meaningful engagement,” said Quinda Feil-Duncan, Executive Director of Baptist Retirement Community. “It is beautiful seeing the level of companionship that is expressed through these bonding times. We feel they equally enjoy having something adorable to take care of and bestow attention upon. Those dogs get so much extra love and care, and the interactions are priceless. We think it is wonderful that Concho Valley Paws is taking our story and using it to impact the lives of dogs and seniors in such a positive way.”
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