Happiness is a warm puppy
– Charles Shultz (cartoonist, Peanuts)
by Amena Hajjar
Yesterday while sitting outside the Dance Palace as the Community Luncheon was coming to a close, Jay, Kip and my 11 year old daughter were being entertained by Kip’s many tricks. Kip is a golden lab who can lay down, roll over, jump onto your lap and give you a happy high five, with one simple word command for each request. As I watched the diners leave, many stopping to pet Kip, one particular interaction touched my heart deeply.
A caregiver who was helping her older adult client walk through the door seemed like an exercise in patience for both. The older adult client was slow, stiff and void of any emotion on her face. Her body moved slowly, and she leaned into her caregiver with complete confidence as her guide. They were both silent as they were approached by Kip. Kip stopped at their feet, sat down and looked up with her big brown eyes. The caregiver asked her client if she wanted to pet the dog, and after seeing something in her face (though honestly I could not read anything) reached for her hand to meet Kip’s cheek.
Instantly, I mean instantly; as soon as her hand touched Kip, her face changed completely. Her body relaxed and she started to pet Kip on her own, finding energy that was not there before. She then started to giggle and talk to Kip. We all sat there silent, watching this tender moment. My daughter remarked how Kip brought this woman happiness.
“What really makes Kip happy is meeting and greeting, she has a body wag and soft licks for all that cross her path” said Jay, Kip’s human owner.
Kip was adopted by Jay and Maureen last year after being released from Canine Companions for Independence, an organization that trains and provides assistance dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities. She’s now three years old and loving life in West Marin. Kip and Jay are a team, but Kip is the more outgoing one. Jay delivers meals for a number of WMSS home bound clients who receive Home Delivered Meals, and Kip loves her volunteer work too.
“One of Kip’s favorite adventures is accompanying me when I deliver meals to seniors for WMSS. Kip beats me to the door every time”
Studies show that animal interaction is a huge benefit physically, socially and emotionally.
- Heart Health – Frequent interaction with a pet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Improved Activity – Walking, grooming or playing with a pet increases the frequency of physical activity and exercise.
- Increased Interaction – Walking a dog gets senior owners out of their homes and increases opportunities to socialize with neighbors.
- Stimulates Memory – Visiting with an animal allows seniors to tap into memories of childhood pets and past experiences.
- Decreased Loneliness – Pets provide companionship.
- Stress Relief – Being with a pet increases levels of serotonin, the “feel good” hormone that relieves stress.
WMSS has a few volunteers who bring their (working) pets to various locations. Stockstill House, our assisted living facility in Pt. Reyes Station hosts “Loki” a German Shepherd who has brought giggles and joy with his heavy coat and floppy ears. “Duke the Cat” comes to Stockstill House with his human owner, Jennifer Morris for some purring and lap time for the residents. Animals are great companions!
Susan Deixler, the West Region Care manager for WMSS and her working dog “Peaches” (pictured center) provide lots of free therapy as well. Look for next months eblast, where Susan and her many skills will be featured.