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A Therapy Dog in Action

No one can say with certainty if dogs go to heaven. But the residents of this care center feel confident that heaven sent a dog to them!


Despite a lack of formal training as a therapy dog, Nala brings joy and comfort to these elderly residents. She rides the nursing home's elevator and leaps onto wheelchairs and beds to cuddle with patients.


"She's an angel," says 90-year-old Ruth New softly. "I love her and she loves me."


Five-year-old Nala first came to this care home with her owner, medications assistant Doug Dawson. He adopted her from the nursing home he'd worked at previously.


Nala has an uncanny ability to pick out which residents need a little extra love. "She'll pick out the person with Alzheimer's," says Dawson. "She has a way of picking the sick."



Ironically, Nala washed out doing therapy work at another nursing home where Dawson used to work. "They said, 'You can have her,'" Dawson says.


He blames Nala's previous failure on youth and too much time spent in a kennel, that left her "whiny and neurotic." Now five-years-old and kennel-free, Nala has more than redeemed herself.


Nala also seems to sense when people are at life's end. Several people mentioned Izez Gugisberg's recent passing and the way Nala remained by her side.


"She had died earlier in the morning, but Nala knew and went and sat with her," said Sandy Glomski, a Lyngblomsten staffer. "It was wonderful and we were all in tears."


Dawson says he's constantly amazed, by both Nala's compassion and her ability to navigate the nursing home's floors on her own.

Therapy dogs are useful across a wide range of difficult human situations. The empathetic canines can help comfort veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Alzheimer's patients and autistic children.


It's intuitive that people feel better with a fluffy friend. Indeed, studies have shown that therapy dogs decrease agitation in patients with dementia and improve health outcomes for patients hospitalized with heart failure.


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