That, in itself, is not unusual. Because we are a continuum, people come to live in our independent apartments or life lease condominiums. Over the years, as they age, their needs change, and often they move to the Courtyard Community, where full care is provided.
But this resident is different. She has four legs. And fur. And in her quiet way, she's rocked our world.
Opal is an Australian Cattle dog mix who was abandoned and has lived the last seven months at a shelter. She's is a senior--about 10 years old. I haven't heard her bark; she never jumps. She's polite and loves people. It seems her tail is always wagging, and she soaks up the love lavished on her.
Christie Gardens has been home for cats in the past, and presently Lily and Cloe live in separate neighbourhoods, reigning supreme in their respective homes. But everyone knows cats are independent and require a lot less care. A dog is a different story, and taking one into a retirement home is a radical move. Who will look after her at night? On weekends? Staff are busy. Who is going to take on an extra duty?
Tell that to the evening nurses who take her out for walks. The care partners who cuddle her. The receptionist who gives up part of her lunch hour to make sure she's walked. The family member who visits her mother and walks Opal. It's not that she is a novelty. These people genuinely love her and want to be a part of her care.
It's well documented that pets benefit the elderly. I read scholarly works citing improvement in loneliness, the sundowning that often accompanies Alzheimer's and pain relief. People eat better, get more exercise and are happier. The studies prove it. One study had a control group with no pets, another with pets, and a third with a plant. Even having a plant was better than nothing, but the group with the pets were measurably better in all areas. I have to wonder--how much did they pay to run that study? I mean--duh!
I'm glad the facts are there to support the reality. But when you see the reality, the facts are obvious.
- A depressed woman whose face is glowing as she comes to visit Opal each day.
- A man whose usual demeanour is to frown and complain has a grin lighting his face
- A group of residents with dementia, who are agitated as they experience sundowning after dinner. Opal comes to visit, and they immediately calm and interract with her.
- A widow from another floor comes each day with dog treats for her.
- The woman who is often angry, whose face softens as she talks to the dog.
- Arthritic fingers straining from wheelchairs to reach out and pet her.
- Innumerable conversations that start with, "We always had dogs…"
How much is that doggie in the window?