April 14, 2015
Nala rides the elevator and navigates the home on her own, and will snuggle up to the home's tenants who refer to her as an "angel."
The dog was brought in to the home by Doug Dawson, one of the center's medication assistants. Nala, who has no formal pet therapy training, was taken in by Dawson after she struggled in therapy work at another nursing home.
Dawson told USA Today that Nala had previously been spending too much time in a kennel, and when he brought her to the new home she found her way in giving companionship to the tenants of the care center. Now, Dawson says Nala makes her own schedule and is able to pick out who is sick and in need of a friend at the home.
Watch Nala's story here:
Loving pets like Nala are a proven source of treatment for many of those suffering from diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's. According to the Alzheimer's Project, animals can help ease those conditions' symptoms:
Research shows that people with dementia recognize a pet in the environment as friendly and non-threatening. When they have a pet with them, studies show they display more interactive behaviors, although these behaviors are often directed toward the pet rather than their human companions.
It has even been shown that dementia patients eat more following the visit of a therapy animal. Spending time with an animal has even been correlated to lower blood pressure and increased odds of survival after a heart attack. Many individuals with Alzheimer’s, who respond to little or nothing else in their environment, will respond to the non-threatening presence of a gentle therapy animal. An animal also provides a natural and easy conversation topic for dementia patients, who often feel a great deal of strain from being put into social situations.
In Philadelphia, pet therapy is used as a way of making the hospital experience feel more like home at CHOP. The Gerald B. Shreiber program uses trained dogs and volunteers to help children cope by distracting them from the pain of their illness and providing them with love.
If you're interested in working with animals and helping with kids at CHOP, you can volunteer with the program here.