Puppy therapy brings students to nursing home

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Puppy therapy brings students to nursing home

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Kevin Coriolan | News Editor

On Friday, February 21, 2014, Beaver Animal Rescue and Care (BARC) brought smiles to the faces of nursing home residents in the form of Puppy Therapy.

Cared for by BARC members, six dogs were brought over from TLC Canine Shelter in Newell, IA to Methodist Manor, a retirement community and nursing home in Storm Lake, IA. BARC co-president and senior Hillary Nielsen planned and managed the event.

“Getting to see the dogs can really help the residents and it can decrease stress, decrease a sense of loneliness,” Nielsen said. The point of the service project was to bring the Buena Vista University (BVU) students involved with BARC to the nursing home to meet the residents.

There was no barking and there was no scratching. But there was a whole lot of talking and petting.

“It’s a way for the residents to feel better, happier, for a short time,” Nielsen said. From always having a canine in the house while growing up, Nielsen knows how beneficial having a pet around can be even for a small period of time.

Puppy Therapy is not uncommon in other places. Therapy Dogs International is a group that has over 24,000 dog handling teams registered in all 50 states.

The last Puppy Therapy session BARC held was in 2011 with Methodist Manor. Nielsen was not active in the group at that time. However, since then she has been the treasurer and the secretary.

“Sometimes we take our dogs into the nursing home in my hometown. Now my grandpa’s there,” Nielsen said. She has brought her Australian Shepherd several times visiting most of the residents of the nursing home in Exira.

BARC went to Methodist Manor this year because they had done it in the past. The animal group is still trying to nurture the relationship between the two partners. Nielsen believes that Puppy Therapy could also be done in hospitals, elementary schools, and other nursing homes.

Nielsen also thinks it’d be a good idea for college students to take part in puppy therapy and hopes that BARC can make that happen after she graduates this May.