Bridget Vis reports:
Sonia Leopold, a 94-year-old resident at Cedar Village Retirement Community, admits she’d never been fond of dogs.
Until she met Gates.
Today, Sonia’s face lights up whenever the 5-year-old golden retriever walks into her room.
“Gates brightens people’s moods,” said Debi Tyler, Gates’ owner and Cedar Village’s rehabilitation director. “He enriches their lives and gives them a quality of living that is better than before he arrived.”
Since his arrival as a facility dog, Gates has become a cherished part of the 300-resident community, making friends with folks like Leopold. Gates, the first and only facility dog at Cedar Village, also encourages physical therapy patients to accomplish more than they thought possible.
Gates arrived in June 2012 after Tyler adopted him from Circle Tail in Pleasant Plain in Warren County, a nonprofit that trains hearing, facility and service dogs.
“There’s something about interacting with a pet that brings out responses you can’t get any other way,” Tyler said. “He’s especially helpful in the rehab unit because he often motivates patients to do exercises that are painful or difficult for them to do.”
Her favorite story of Gates’ motivational abilities is of an older woman who suffered a stroke and couldn’t walk. But in her first week at Cedar Village, the woman saw Gates and walked to him.
“That woman has since completed her rehabilitation here, and is at home walking every day,” Tyler said.
Gates provides other physical therapy advantages, Tyler said.
“Petting a dog or throwing a toy in a game of fetch are great workouts for patients with weak hands,” Tyler said. “It also makes their therapy fun because they are entertained by Gates.”
Physical therapy assistant James Taylor agreed that his canine co-worker is making a difference.
“He’s definitely lightened up the mood here,” Taylor said. “Sometimes we get locked in exercise mode, and then Gates comes in, and he eases their minds and makes them forget about their pain for awhile.”
Gates leads the way when Tyler travels to meetings and visits patients. Roaming without a leash, staff and residents greet him with bear hugs and smiles. The only places he isn’t allowed are the dining areas for fear the residents will sneak him handouts.
Outside of the rehab unit, Tyler is most proud of Gates’ influence on the dementia floor.
“Most of those residents have trouble engaging in normal conversation,” she said. “But they have no trouble engaging with Gates.”
ABOUT CIRCLE TAIL INC.
Address: 8834 Carey Lane, Pleasant Plain, OH 45162
Purpose: Circle Tail provides service dogs to people with disabilities. It also provide dogs for adoption and offers obedience training, behavior management and boarding services.
History: Circle Tail began in 1997 and placed its first service dog (hearing) in 1998. On average, Circle Tail places five to 10 service dogs per year. Since 1998, it has placed 165 dogs.
Cost: $25 non-refundable application fee.
Information: 513-877-3325 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit circletail.net
TYPES OF DOGS
Service dogs assist people with disabilities, other than vision or hearing loss, by helping people with daily tasks like retrieving items and open and shutting doors.
Hearing dogs assist people with hearing impairments by alerting them to sounds such as doorbells and alarm clocks.
Facility dogs are placed with professionals working at facilities like retirement homes and physical therapy centers to help motivate patients and improve quality of residents’ lives.
Therapy dogs’ owners do not work at a facility, but the dogs are given proper training and then taken into hospitals or other facilities as a therapy mechanism.