RR Litter Visits to Nursing Homes & a Senior Daycare
Samson (Celhaus Pirate, a Cantor/Spirit son, 1 year 4 months old, from the PP litter) didn’t send a Christmas photo in 2019 but instead sent a poem which I MUST share on this page:
Cel and her Kids
There is a lady named Cel
To her Shepherds she’s a big deal
But even greater to all
Whether the big or the small
Special pleasure she gives
When visiting with her kids
The different locations
Schools, infirmed and the aging
Happy thoughts throughout
With Shepherds have no doubt
Whose unending devotion
Keeping life in full motion
Enlightening all the hearts
Is the big gift Cel imparts!
Thanks, John & Julie, for those beautiful thoughts.
I have been taking a therapy dog to the local nursing homes, Sheridan Manor since 1981 and Westview Healthcare Center since it was built in 1995. They asked me to also bring my litters of puppies, so once the pups turn 5 weeks old, I recruit friends to help me take them places. I photograph the visits and burn CDs for the institutions, and the nursing homes tell me they play them often for the residents, especially if they’re having a rough day. the residents love seeing themselves playing with the pups. (People who get puppies get a flash drive with photos of their pup from birth until it leaves here.)
I also take the litters to Daybreak, a senior Daycare.
Until I edited these photos for the website almost 6 months later, I had forgotten how noisy the RR litter was. Quite a few photos show pups singing, and many have residents singing back to them.
At all of these places it is extremely difficult to get good photos due to the conflicting light sources – artificial lighting from ceilings and other lights plus light coming in from windows and usually all the light bouncing off of polished floors. A setting that works great during one visit won’t necessarily work on the next, but I keep trying.
I usually put one visit on the website at a time, taking it down when I have the next visit’s photos edited and ready to go up. This year the litters were close together AND I was busy with yardwork as well as training 4 dogs for agility trials and 7 dogs for nosework trials. It wasn’t until all the pups left and the snow and cold ended outdoor activities that I had time to downsize the photos for my website. I found it fascinating to follow the pups as they develop and learn what all the trips are about. As they get older I have more photos to edit! But here they are, with a short explanation of each visit and the link to the photos. Enjoy! All these visits were done in July 2019.
They followed me to the car and stayed close so it was easy to pick them up to load them, two to a crate. As soon as I closed the doors they began to yell. They yelled – and I mean YELLED – the whole way to Sheridan Manor, which thankfully is only a couple of miles from my house. As soon as I stopped and opened the doors and they saw my helpers, they were quiet and ready to visit.
The Manor has a nice fenced lawn area where we take them to potty before going into the facility. They promptly headed for the line of shade, covering the sidewalk along the wall, and my helpers had to work hard to get them moving around on the grass so they’d potty. We finally gave up as they were flattening themselves in the shade, chins on the ground, and not budging.
We carried them into the Alzheimer’s Unit and set them on the floor, emptying the toy bag I brought. They weren’t too sure and froze for perhaps a minute, then they noticed all the people and began wagging their tails and going from one to another. Soon they were noticing the toys and playing with them, entertaining everyone. They also were mostly willing to sit in people’s laps for attention, except my noisy boys, Mr. Brown & Mr. Green, did a lot of complaining. That brought a lot of laughs!
The therapy director had given the Alzheimer’s Unit a stuffed German Shepherd toy in honor of my weekly visits there. Joy, the staff person who coordinates my visits, put it down with the rest of the toys and everyone got a kick out of seeing the live German Shepherds’ reactions to the stuffed one.
Mr. Purple and Mr. Green picked up the tennis balls, which was quite a mouthful. Several of the others followed the balls’ movements but didn’t pick them up.
They played for about 50 minutes, which is fantastic for a first visit – especially since they had yelled all the way there. I had a terrible time taking pictures as they kept coming to me. I have to sit on the floor to get a good angle for photos and was easy for them to find. My helpers kept having to remove a pup from my lap. Once they collapsed, we picked up the toys and the pups and I took them home – again yelling the entire way.
43 days old, visiting Daybreak, a senior daycare (7/24/19):
(2 pages of photos)
No play session this morning since we needed to be at Daybreak, a senior daycare facility, at 10 this morning. Once again, the pups followed me sweetly (not even attacking my pant legs) to the car, the easiest litter ever to get loaded for a visit. However, they are the worst for yelling in the car. We could never sneak up on anyone. My helpers heard us drive up and were out of their cars in a flash.
We had new help today: Two teens joined the adults. Daybreak has an open “living room” with comfortable chairs and couches arranged in a big circle where they gather the elders. I need that many helpers so they can position themselves in the gaps between the furniture to contain the puppies there and keep them from running to investigate all the other areas or to follow people. After the pups play for a while, some of my helpers keep the pups within the circle while others carry them around, holding them for people to pet, sometimes putting them in a person’s lap.
I take different toys for each visit. Miss Pink played tug a little with a very long pink stuffed monkey. She and a couple of other pups liked a knobby ball that lights up when it moves. After their first car ride and visit (stressful enough without me adding any stressors), I always take a noisy, weird toy. Today I took a fire engine which, when turned on, has flashing lights and sirens. Mr. Brown followed it around and looked at, Mr. Green kept his distance and moved forward and back in indecision but never approached; the rest ignored it.
They played for 40 minutes, which is pretty good. This litter is not nearly as busy as the previous litter, so they were a little easier to keep confined and more willing to sit on laps and be petted.
Miss Gray didn’t play much but settled down for a nap. Mr. Brown made everyone laugh as he sat in one lady’s lap and complained and talked and carried on. He made no effort to get down but sat there vocalizing for the longest time.
They were a little quieter on the way home, though someone in the back crate yelled the whole time. I forgot to notice just who was in that back crate when I got home – I know it was two boys as I noticed the two girls in one of the front crates when I looked back once. And I don’t think it was Mr. Green as I think he was in the other front crate. The others only complained a little and then rode quietly. What a relief!
44 days old, visiting Sheridan Manor (7/25/19):
(4 pages of photos)
Again they came happily and easily followed me this afternoon as I headed to the car to load them for their visit to Sheridan Manor. They didn’t even yell much on the journey, which is only about 2 miles. We were actually there early, before my help arrived, but it wasn’t long until they came. We had time to take them to the potty area and let them hang out in the shade until it was time to go into the building. The room was packed both with residents and two sets of visitors complete with kids, so packed that I had difficulty taking photos. The pups thought it was great fun and played a lot.
I usually take something that makes weird noises on every visit except the first one, which is stressful enough. Today I took the bumble ball for the weird toy. It is a bright yellow battery-operated ball with multi-colored knobs which vibrates, bounces, shakes and rolls erratically. They showed a lot of interest in it, but hardly anyone grabbed at it with their mouth; instead they swatted at it with their front feet, which was a new reaction. Miss Pink again played the hardest of everyone, engaging in tug battles with some of the kids. She really liked one toy, a long “weasel” soft toy and played with it a lot, when she wasn’t chasing or packing around the tennis ball.
They were less willing today to sit in people’s laps but all the seniors got to hold and pet at least one before, after 30 minutes, we packed them and the toys up and headed to the Alzheimer’s Unit. They had been starting to stretch out for a nap but woke up when we moved them and played a little for the Alzheimer’s patients. They were by that time pretty willing to also sit in laps. After another 15 minutes there, we packed up and headed home. Someone in the back crate – which held the girls this time – yelled on the way home but the others were pretty quiet.
49 days old, visiting Westview Healthcare Center (7/30/19):
(2 pages of photos)
By the time I got the pups to the car, I was really wishing I had asked someone to come help me load them. They’ve been so good that I haven’t needed help, but after a very pleasant morning, the day got up into the 90’s about noon and the pups were sound asleep in the cool puppy house when I went out to get them. They DID NOT want to go anywhere. Several tried to go back to the transition area, and while I was rounding them up, Miss Pink raced up the steps, through the doggie door and into the air conditioned house. I finally managed to get the pups out of the puppy yard and closed the puppy yard gate behind them. Next I convinced Miss Pink to come out of the house before others joined her and got them to go through the gate out of the back yard, hurriedly closing it. I eventually got them around the north side of the house, closing that gate out of the side yard into the front yard to keep them from turning back. After that they were resigned to the process and followed me to the car. They yelled their displeasure the entire way to Westview, a fifteen-minute drive. In fact, one of my helpers commented that they heard us coming. After the ordeal of getting them to the car we were late and everyone was waiting for us.
I took different toys (which I do for every visit) and they pounced on them as soon as we opened the bag. We had some very entertaining tug battles. Today I took a battery operated train engine that moves on its own while playing music. We got lots of laughs out of the pups following it to investigate and then moving out of the way as it reversed and headed to them. It seemed to target wheelchairs, going under and out the other side, and also the teen helpers, going under their arms or legs so that they had to keep changing positions to let it – and the pups pursuing it – through. I also took a huge monkey toy that groans when pushed or stepped on.
The Pawsfun Crazy Bouncer, which vibrates and barks and carries on, was a great hit with everyone. The only problem is that it shuts off after just 20 seconds but often as a pup pounced on it and picked it up, they’d hit the button and it would begin vibrating again. It was funny watching the pups’ heads shake as they carried it; the residents really laughed. Other fun toys were a big yellow duck that quacks when you push on it and a talking ball that babbles every time it is rolled. It’s hard and large enough that the pups can’t get it in their mouths, so they invariably hit it with a paw or their mouth and start it rolling. Mr. Blue was fascinated by it and pursued it all over the room every time he happened up on it, trying repeatedly to pick it up. That got lots of laughs, too. Another interesting toy was a 6″ diameter Wiggly Giggly ball that makes a very weird noise as it rolls. They are definitely beginning to follow the movement of rolling toys and balls.
They played about 45 minutes, which was really good in the ninety degree heat outside and what seemed like eighty degree heat in the activity room.
They didn’t yell a whole lot going home.
50 days old, again visiting the Alzheimer’s Unit (7/31/19):
(4 pages of photos)
I was prepared today when I headed out to load pups for their trip to the Alzheimer’s Unit: I closed the doggie door into the house. It didn’t do any good, though, because Miss Pink didn’t come out with the others. I couldn’t find her anywhere. Slightly panicked, I put the other five puppies out into the play yard and closed that gate, then began searching for her. Of course, as I called for her, they were screaming and bouncing up and down on the other side of that gate. I looked everywhere – inside the puppy house, transition area, lounging area, all the dog houses, even way back in the obstacle course. I couldn’t find her anywhere. I searched everywhere again, still no puppy. Just as I was trying to decide what to do – leave for the nursing home with just five pups (“Where in the world could she be. She was just there before I went inside the house after Cantor’s ball session.”) – she appeared at my feet, stretching, yawning and totally relaxed. Vastly relieved, I grabbed her and carried her to the others and led them towards the car, closing the next gate to keep anyone from doubling back. We made it to the nursing home with 5 minutes to spare. Whew! My main thought was, “I’m getting too old for this type of panic in the heat…” At least they were pretty quiet on the four-mile drive, probably because they yelled so much during the search for Miss Pink.
The puppies played and played despite the heat outside and the fact the Alzheimer’s Unit was hot, which amazed me. They lasted a whole hour. They didn’t sit well on people’s laps today, just too busy playing with the new toys. Visits to the Alzheimer’s Unit are always fun because Joy (staff person) gets on the floor with them and lets them attack her long hair. They really got into that today and her hair was a mess when they finished, giving all of us a big laugh. Miss Pink had quite a tug battle over a rope toy with Ariel, and Mr. Green had one with her over Joy’s set of keys on a long lanyard, which she always puts out for the pups to play with. I really like that she does that because the ones who enjoy playing with Joy’s keys usually do really well on the “retrieve metal object” portion of the Search & Rescue test since they’ve gotten used to the taste and feel of the keys. Miss Gray really liked the keys too, though she didn’t tug.
One of the perennially favorite toys that I take on visits is a police car that lights up, blares sirens and loud voice commands. Usually litters definitely like it, throng around it when we turn it on, and eventually try to carry it around. Miss Gray and Miss Pink were the only ones to show a lot of interest in it. We laughed when Miss Gray managed to turn on the sirens as she chewed on the toy, accidentally pushing down on one of the three buttons.
In 2014, the Children’s Library asked me to organize a Reading Dog program. I did so and for 2 years therapy dogs visited on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Parents signed their children up to read to the dogs. Research has proven that reading to a non-judgmental, totally-accepting dog helps children get over their struggles to read and sense of inadequacy. The Children’s Library asked me to also bring my pups for Puppy Playtime, so my litters usually get to go there twice. Unfortunately, the Children’s Librarian left for a three-week vacation the day before the RR litter turned 5 weeks (old enough to take the stress of visits), and the library is way understaffed anyway, so this litter didn’t get to do Puppy Playtime. You can enjoy the QQ litter puppy playtimes, though: at 44 days old (two pages) and at 58 days old (3 pages).