Love wears fur

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Ninety-year-old Olga, a long-term resident at Tri-County Nursing Home, in Trenton, looked a little confused when a small group of people entered her room asking questions about expecting visitors Thursday.

But her confusion melted when she saw that two of the group’s members were short, hairy and of the canine variety.

“I love animals,” she said as she caressed one of the dogs sitting on her bed, “ and they are so adorable.”

On Thursday, Volunteers from the Heart of the Hammock Humane Society Thrift Store Inc., in Old Town, took two Pekinese dogs, Peaches, 10, and Patches, 3, to visit residents at Tri-County Nursing Home in hopes of lifting spirits.

Pat Brown, a representative from Heart of the Hammock, said the program started over the summer and usually happens about once a week.

“We’re not so much animal lovers as humanitarians,” Brown said.

She said the animals have a noticeable effect on the residents.

“We had a lady who hadn’t said a word in months, when we put Patches in her lap, she started talking.”

Chris Dunn, activities director for the nursing home, said,  “It’s a positive thing.  You bring a dog in; it’s amazing.”

Interacting with dogs reduces stress and anxiety, she said.  It can provide therapy for maintaining motor skills, through touch, and it can evoke emotional responses and provide ways to connect emotionally, she said.

“That’s what we want out of them.  It’s a way to communicate without words.”

Brown said it’s also therapeutic for the animals, which have often been abandoned or mistreated by previous owners.

Patches’ previous owner, a truck driver, found the dog stranded in the desert somewhere out west, she said.  He took care of the dog for a while, but one night, on a drunken binge, gave the dog away.

Now, Peaches and Patches have a permanent home at Heart of the Hammock, Brown said.

“Patches is our mascot.”  And Peaches has too many health problems to be considered for adoption, she said.

Jenna Coe, 17, Chiefland, was one of the volunteers helping out Thursday.

“I like knowing that it makes people feel good, knowing that it makes people smile.”

Coe said she’s been volunteering with Heart of the Hammock for about a year.

Dunn said she’s glad people like Coe take the time to make a difference.

“We rely on volunteers.  And here, it’s just a matter of coming in for 15 minutes.  Fifteen minutes out of your day once a week means a lot to these people.”

For information about volunteering at Tri-County Nursing Home, contact Chris Dunn at (352) 463-1222. 

To volunteer with Heart of the Hammock Humane Society Thrift Store Inc., contact Pat Brown at (352) 542-1617.

    “I love animals, and they are so adorable,” she said.

On Thursday, Olga, along with other residents at the nursing home, got a visit from volunteers from the Heart of the Hammock Humane Society, in Chiefl