I had been looking forward to my first Dolly Goodpuppy visit to Heritage Inn Nursing Home in Barnesville, but when I woke to cold, drizzling rain and a promise of another ice storm, I began to wait for Pat to call to tell me the visit today was cancelled. Instead, I received a text from her: “Since it’s not icy, we will go.” So I donned my beige raincoat –never buy beige to wear in the rain—and headed over to Dolly Goodpuppy to meet Pat, other volunteers who had planned to make this visit, and a few of our Dolly Goodpuppy ambassadors—in other words, a few of Dolly’s friendly, most charming dogs.
When I arrived, three dogs were dressed in costumes and ready to go: Bojangles, a stately, calm beagle was in his Georgia Bulldog outfit; Gabby, a beautiful spaniel mix, was clearly a homecoming queen in her red shiny jacket and tiara; and little Bunkie, a black dachshund mix, was pretty in pink as head cheerleader, whose pompoms on her front legs completed the look. When we met up with two of the other volunteers who had brought their own dogs, one dog was dressed in a pumpkin jacket. “They look as if they’re ready for Homecoming,” Pat joked. And in a sense it was a homecoming—our team would visit a local nursing home to meet and greet the residents and to have a great time despite the cold, wet weather. No, there wouldn’t be a football or an opponent; this was a nursing homecoming, and we were the visiting team ready for some fun.
Our canine crew entered a large room where a large group of residents was seated and waiting for them. It didn’t take long for the smiles to begin, hands to reach out to pet a dog, and a few outstretched arms to receive the affection of our pups. We humans interacted by talking and smiling; our pups interacted by wagging their tails, getting in a few kisses, and nuzzling some hands. Much research has been done that supports that animals, especially dogs, are psychologically beneficial to humans. Therapy dogs are used in veterans’ hospitals, for children, for the elderly, and for the grieving. They are natural nurses who innately sense what humans need. Those of us who love and work with dogs regularly know their healing power. As one of Dolly’s volunteers, I have spoken often of how renewed and calm and happy I feel after spending time with a few dogs who freely give me their attention and affection.
Of course, a visit such as this one has healthy benefits for all involved. Our canine team enjoyed the attention they received, and for those that are shelter dogs, this socialization with humans is very necessary for them. The Dolly Goodpuppy volunteers also benefitted from our team visit: It’s good to share our love of our dogs with others, to interact with those in our community who may not be able to get out to travel, and to share a sense of camaraderie with other volunteers who are bonded by our affection for “man’s (and woman’s) best friend.”
Enjoy the photos and notice the smiles, and if you are looking for a way to volunteer, please contact the Dolly Goodpuppy Society.