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You may not have thought about both sides of this coin, but Volunteer Dogs Help Patients and Owners. Normally you think about the many benefits to the patients that the dogs visit, but there are considerable benefits to the owners also — more than just the satisfaction of volunteering. Erin Madden, republishing a Winnipeg Free Press story on their website, writes about the many ways in which Volunteer Dogs Help Patients and Owners.
When Dakota enters a room, faces light up and smiles form.
A volunteer at Deer Lodge Centre, the 10-year-old Alaskan malamute happily makes rounds once each week, socializing with residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Three years ago, her owner, Jeannette Bodnar, decided she wanted to get involved as a volunteer. A stay-at-home mom at the time, she wanted a reason to get out of her house. When she found out about the pet program at Deer Lodge Centre, she knew that Dakota would be a perfect fit.
“I was just looking for something that would fit our family and I saw this for a position. I thought ‘Wow — she loves people so much and she’s really calm,'” remembered Bodnar, a 32-year-old mother to two young boys.
“A lot of that puppy is gone and she’s calm about it all. She loves attention. She smiles a bit.”
She adds that many of the Deer Lodge residents love animals and had pets throughout their lives before entering the hospital.
“A lot of people here had to leave their pets behind when they came in here and I can’t imagine — that’s your family member. Maybe it went into rescue and maybe they never got to see them again,” Bodnar said.
Not only does Dakota help to fill that void, but her interaction with the residents also helps them to communicate. Bodnar, who is currently studying at the University of Winnipeg, said the benefits are immediately obvious.
“Not everyone is able to communicate through words, and I think animals really have a way of overcoming that boundary,” she explained. “They’re all about energy. I think there’s something to be said about it — there’s this connection.”
But she is also quick to point out that the residents aren’t the only ones to benefit. Bodnar said volunteering has not only gotten her out of the house, giving her something meaningful to do, but also given her the opportunity to teach her two sons, Malikie, 7, and Lars, 9, about giving back. Both boys, on occasion, volunteer with her at Deer Lodge. She said both were proud to receive official volunteer badges.
“It gives them the knowledge that you can find happiness through something other than video games or gifts or monetary things,” she said, adding it has also helped them learn how to communicate more clearly….
There are obviously several benefits to the owners also, especially those with children. Letting them experience firsthand what volunteering can do to help those less fortunate is a valuable life lesson, not easily taught.
Have you experienced other ways in which Volunteer Dogs Help Patients and Owners? Share with all our readers in the Comments section below.