I am sharing the following story here on my blog. What a wonderful story it is. I wish more nursing homes would follow this idea. Not only for dogs, but for cats as well! Just think of the benefits, not only for giving an animal a home, but giving the final years of an elderly person joy. Because we all know what a good feeling it is to have a dogs eyes lock with yours, to have a tail wag at the sight of you, at sound of your voice, or the sight of you coming into the house. I think back one of my recent adoptions to an 88 year old man named Alex, a widower, who adopted Purrcy (changed his name to Wally) - I can't tell you the joy in Alex's voice when he talks about how Wally is doing when I call to check up on him. He loves him! An instant match. And then there is Lillian, also a widow, who adopted Pepper, at the age of 85 a year ago. Pepper is her "boy", and she would be lost without him. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could do more with all of these unwanted animals!
Here is the article from the Democrat & Chronicle today:
"Despite her gray, the youngest resident at St. John's Green House home still has plenty of spring in her step.
In less than two months, she's settled in to her new routine at 75 Sonoma Drive and made friends with everyone in the house.
"She brings a lot of joy to everybody," said 89-year-old Dorothy Carcelli. "She's always going from one to the other. She likes being in with a lot of people."
As if knowing someone's talking about her, Lexi pops her head into the doorway of Carcelli's room.
"She's part of the family," Carcelli said about the 5 ½ year-old Labrador-Mastiff mix rescued from a shelter in June.
As the 11th resident, Lexi is more than a housemate. She is a symbol of two hand-in-glove movements in long-term care — the Eden Alternative and the Green House Project, which promote continued growth regardless of advanced age.
The Eden Alternative philosophy is focused on quality of life and supports individual autonomy — from what time to wake up or go to bed, or when to eat and how to spend the day — for the residents, who are called elders. The concept can be applied to traditional nursing home buildings, but it is particularly suited to the single-story homes favored by the Green House Project. St. John's opened two at 65 and 75 Sonoma a couple of years ago that look like sprawling ranch houses. Inside are private rooms and baths, and large open common area.
The idea and the physical environment are all about creating a meaningful life for elders, said Kris Angevine, team development and guide for the staff and the elders and their families in both Green House homes.
Since the home opened, some of the elders tossed around the idea of a pet. A few months ago, Lou Delucia got serious.
Angevine described Delucia, who died last week, as an adventurous soul who maneuvered his motorized wheelchair around real or imagined obstacles.
"He came to the table at a house meeting and said, 'We should get a dog.' He was getting them to see this was good for quality of life," she said.
But all the elders had to agree.
Carcelli, who'd never had a dog, couldn't see why she should have one now. "I thought it was too much work," she said.
The residents wouldn't have to do anything but give it a scratch behind the ears. Responsibility would fall to the staff, some of whom had doubts.
"The house gets busy sometimes," said Pat Johnson, a certified nursing assistant. "How will we keep the house in order, keep the elders comfortable and take care of the dog?"
But under the Green House model, the elders rule and once they reached consensus, the search was on.
A friend of a staff member put them in contact with Hamlin dog control officer Dave Maynard at the Craig A. Goodrich Dog Shelter. For a long time, Maynard didn't have a suitable pet. The municipal shelter, which doesn't euthanize adoptable pets, and Maynard picked up Lexi from Rochester Animal Services, where Maynard said her time was running out.
"I felt bad for the dog that she wasn't being adopted," he said.
Being nearly 80 pounds may have hurt her prospects, and might have made him think twice about placing her in a nursing home.
"The more I got to know her, I knew she was the right dog," Maynard said.
Lexi's graying snout isn't the only sign of her maturity. "She's calm," Maynard said. "She doesn't carry on, she's very smart."
From the way Lexi acted around shelter volunteers, Maynard could see she liked people. Volunteers took Lexi for a visit to the St. John's Green House. She padded around the house for a couple of hours, then went back to the shelter while Angevine asked the elders and staff whether they should bring Lexi home.
After meeting the dog, Carcelli was on board. Now it was Angevine who was anxious.
"The day I picked her up, I was nervous," Angevine said, wondering what she was getting everyone into. "You have to take risks to have a meaningful life."
Much has been written about the health benefits of therapy animals, but Lexi isn't a visitor. She has her own bedroom (a crate off the main hallway) and care plan for her walks, feeding times and other needs. Her expenses, such as food and toys, come out of the house budget. The home has to follow state Department of Health regulations for animals in nursing homes, which broadly defines pet therapy to include a resident animal.
Tom Poelma, president and chief executive officer of Fairport Baptist Homes, says that facility is set up in a neighborhood model that is smaller than a traditional nursing home unit. He said staff members have brought in dogs for a day. He said some residents have brought cats with them, which are cared for by the individual or family. The facility has owned cats.
"I don't think we've had formal votes," he said. "A lot of it depends on the makeup of the household."
Lexi is considered family by the residents and staff at St. John's. "She follows me in the morning when I do the pills," said Chris Diegert, a licensed practical nurse.
But the dog doesn't play favorites.
"There's enough of Lexi to go around," Diegert said.
Lexi will lope around the house, looking for a hand to pet her. On nice days, she roams the enclosed yard. For quiet time, she has a bed under the TV in the common living room and her crate, which the staff covers with a towel at night to keep her settled even if people are moving around.
"She's usually always on a mission," said Barbara Welsh, whose husband, Donald, lives at the Green House.
"It's comforting to be sitting in your room and have this little thing — not little — she'll wander in. She loves to look out the window."
Angevine said workers believe Levi is making a difference.
"It makes them happy when they pet her, talk to her," said Johnson. "When they're in a comfortable environment, it brings more smiles to the house."
And the elders also are having an effect on the dog.
"She's always going from one to the other," said Carcelli. "She can't smile. But we know she is smiling inside."