Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paging Dr. Dog. Paging Dr. Dog.

Once-stray pooch has new job as therapist
By John Burgeson
Connecticut Post

Of all their many traits, dogs are perhaps most appreciated for their attribute of giving unconditional love.

A stray found wandering along Bridgeport's Boston Avenue was especially demonstrative in showering others with true puppy love.

Now, the dog, known as RC, has a full-time job doing what he loves best at the Brighton Gardens assisted-living facility just off Long Ridge Road in Stamford.

RC is a medium-sized, 6-year-old pooch, and based on his appearance, it's been awhile since anyone in his lineage has had AKC papers. No one knows what "RC" stands for.

RC patrols the halls and common areas where most needy clients reside, in what is known as its Reminiscence Neighborhood. They are in the winter of their lives, their memories in bits and pieces.

Puklin and her friend, Julie Loparo of Westport, a volunteer at the Westport animal shelter, found RC at the Bridgeport animal shelter after searching shelters in Stamford and Westport for a new therapy dog to take up residence at the facility. They're quick to recommend animal shelters to families in the market for a dog.

Many of the dogs up for adoption, they note, are house-trained, and RC even had a repertoire of a few tricks. He'll shake hands, sit, stay and lie down on command. He still needs to work on the instruction for "roll over," though -- he stops at the half-way point and begs for a belly rub.

Therapy dogs in elder-care facilities have become a nationwide trend.

R.C. has a co-worker named Benjie, a male, chocolate Shar-Pei. Both therapy dogs live at the facility full-time. The residents have been very responsive.

"We had one gentleman who sat by the fireplace all the time ---- wouldn't speak to anyone," See said. "After the dogs came, well, he's like a little kid again."

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