Monday, May 6, 2013

* Just the Medicine the Dog Ordered

Dr. Dog

Nemo D. Keane, ESQ., M.D. (Medicine Dog)


"Doctor of Woof-ology"

The cognitive challenges of many residents in a nursing home make "breaking the ice" an awkward and oftentimes fruitless effort.

Enter Nemo, the Medicine Dog.  

My Basset Hound (Nemo) and I have been visiting the same local nursing home every Thursday morning for the past several months since we began YANA. We missed only one Thursday when the flu had shut down a wing of the home.

Our mission is to greet as many of the 57 residents as is possible.  Nemo manages to break the ice and engage those with severe cognitive and communication challenges, where I alone would simply be a stranger in their midst trying awkwardly to communicate.

Nemo doesn't need to explain why he's there: he just wags his tail and nuzzles up to be petted. And the residents doesn't have to try to engage him in conversation, although often many do manage to utter a phrase of pleasure or delight.

Our visit to all three wings and the cafeteria usually takes an hour, from (9:45 to 11:00 AM). Sometimes we go into individual rooms; many times we meet folks in the hallways or in the cafeteria at "coffee hour" which begins at 9:30.

This particular nursing home has an amazing feature: On a sunny day, the place is flooded with sunlight through windows on all four sides  of the building at once (is this even possible  ? ! ), almost as if the world is trying to invade the place with its own big smile.

Nemo has been a godsend to me in this effort.  I'm afraid I would not have been able to break through the social and cognitive barriers without Dr. Dog at my side.

Anyone who has a dog and would like to join the Medicine Dog team, should contact me at YANA (You Are Not Alone)

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