Therapy Dogs Spread Cheer Through Virtual Volunteering.
Face-to-face visits aren’t possible during social distancing, so handlers are finding creative ways to stay connected.
April 2, 2020, 3:23 AM +08 / Source: TODAY
By Jen Reeder
An English mastiff named Duke doesn’t understand social distancing. The 3-year-old dog is used to volunteering nearly every day at schools and assisted living facilities as a therapy dog with his handler, Tiger Maynard-White. “He loves people,” Maynard-White, 56, told TODAY. “He is the biggest baby.” The New London, Connecticut-based team has volunteered for the past two years with the nonprofit Pet Partners, spreading comfort and cheer in their community. Maynard-White said they both miss offering face-to-face visits; she’s particularly worried about senior citizens in nursing homes who are unable to visit with their families during the coronavirus pandemic. “That’s why I came up with the idea of window-to-window visits,” she said.
Duke visits residents at Harbor Village Rehabilitation and Nursing Center — from outside. Though residents can’t run their fingers through his fur, they still light up in delight while peering out the windows at the happy dog. Maynard-White waves a sign that reads, “Duke sends his love.” On one visit, a typically withdrawn woman urged a member of the staff to help her rise from her wheelchair to get a closer look. Others pressed their hands to the window in gratitude. “Each of our hands are touching both sides of the windows,” she said. “I was in tears.” Volunteer therapy dog teams across the country are finding creative ways to spread comfort in these unprecedented times when stress, isolation and anxiety are on the rise.
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