Therapy dogs bring ray of sunshine to seniors home

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NEW GLASGOW — Many residents at Glen Haven Manor are guaranteed to experience a bright ray of sunshine every Tuesday with visits from either Gracie or Murphy — two therapy dogs that are part of the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program — and their owners Mitch Gammon and Sue Muir.

Residents beam and large smiles light up their faces as the dogs travel from room to room or common areas, visiting those who are interested in sharing time with the therapy dogs. Residents are quick to express their enjoyment regarding the therapy dogs with many expressing that the visits “brighten the day.” Staff also greet the owners and their pets with warm welcomes and big smiles.

When asked if he looks forward to visits from Gracie and Murphy, resident Dave Richardson answers emphatically, “Do I ever! I love the two of them. It makes a new day!”

Among the many residents who enjoy the two dogs, Beverly King describes Gracie, a kind and loving three-year-old golden retriever and Murphy, a laid back, gentle, Bernese Mountain dog with his own Instagram account, as beautiful. “They give us a big lift. I love them and can’t wait to see them. They are very beneficial to the residents.”

Allister MacLaren agrees. “I love them both. I had dogs all of my life,” he says. “I am happy to see them and they cheer people up. If the phone rings and Gracie and Murphy are here to visit, I say I have to go to see the dogs!”

Several residents such as Jackie Johnson and Helen Manos keep treats on hand for the dogs. “I love to see them and give them crackers,” says Johnson.” Manos only has eyes for the two pups when they are around and says she can’t wait for them to come to see her. “They are so pretty. I look forward to their visits,” she says.

Florence Reid says having the dogs visit is part of life at Glen Haven. “They sure do brighten the day. I love the dogs. We always had dogs.”

Bill Alexander, 85 years young, agrees that the dogs give a lift to any day. He recalls having dogs as a young boy at home with his parents as he takes time to pat both Gracie and Murphy. “We always had one at home. Every morning when I got up the dog was right there beside me. I don’t forget those memories.”

The mother-son owners of Murphy and Gracie explain that the program provides visits to hospitals, nursing homes, universities, the airport and anywhere else where someone might benefit from the unconditional love of a dog. Dogs are assessed for the program. They must have the right disposition and personality to be approved.

Sue Muir, who was previously an acute care and critical care nurse, says she also looks forward to the visits to Glen Haven. “It is a homey atmosphere. Staff here are so sweet and nice to the residents. It is very rewarding,” she says. “We alternate the dogs and see as many residents as possible each visit. We know they look forward towards seeing Gracie or Murphy.”

Mitch Gammon, an entrepreneur who loves to volunteer with Gracie, Murphy and his mother, says he loves the childhood memories residents often tell about their own pets. He knows first-hand the many benefit of interacting with a pet, sharing that he has suffered a great personal loss and explaining that Gracie helps him greatly. “Gracie found me,” he says. “I want to share that benefit and positive and uplifting impact with others.” Both Muri and Gammon express that it is a joy to see the reactions of the residents.

In addition to Glen Haven, the two take Gracie and Murphy to the local community college and a local high school. All four were visiting at Glen Haven on Christmas Day and also delivered Christmas cards which the residents still proudly display. And the two nod in agreement that in addition to the weekly visits they will be around for special holidays such as Valentine’s Day. It is obvious they take great pride in the therapy dog program and what it does for the residents. The therapy dog program is volunteering at its best, making a positive difference in the lives of others.

“The therapy dog program, which is part of our recreational programming, has met with great success since its introduction last June,” says Glen Haven CEO Lisa Smith. “Our residents are enjoying the visits very much. We are grateful to Sue and Mitch for their dedication and interest and also to St. John Ambulance for this great community minded program.Glen Haven Manor, New Glasgow, seniors, dog therapy, Mitch Gammon, Susan Muir, Kimberly Dickson “Gracie and Murphy have firmly planted themselves into the hearts and home of our residents and have become a treasured part of the wider Glen Haven family. We look forward to welcoming them for many years to come.”

Submitted by Kimberly Dickson

Glen Haven resident Dave Richardson enjoys a visit from St. John Ambulance therapy dogs Murphy and Gracie. The dogs visit Glen Haven on a weekly basis much to the delight of the residents.  (Photo credit: Kimberly Dickson, courtesy of Glen Haven Manor)

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