Gadget, Avis, Kyra and Koda earned plenty of smiles, cheers and applause from an enthusiastic crowd, when they jumped and raced through obstacles in their third annual Agility Dogs show last month at the Banfield Pavilion. Afterwards, there is a meet-and-greet for some of the best ear scratches and belly rubbing joy.
Natalie Chapman, activity worker, teamed up with the local Paws Squad to bring a Superdogs-style show to residents at the extended care home.
“The dogs are able to break through communication barriers in a way that we two-legged folk aren’t often able, which gives us an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way” says Chapman. “One resident with severe dementia just lit right up when the dogs came in the room, asking ‘Is that a puppy?’”
Meaningful interaction with pets provide companionship, stress relief, sense of purpose, as well as increased opportunities for social connections and reminiscing.
The dogs and their humans belong to Paws Squad, a non-profit dog agility club in Vancouver. Some of the members, led by Cari-Ann Ryall and Gadget, a Canadian National Champion at the 2016 Agility Association of Canada competition, generously share their time and talents with Banfield Pavilion residents each summer.
“I love sharing my dog with the residents – if he can bring a smile to one person’s face while we’re doing something we love, then it’s completely worth my time,” says Ryall. “I remember my first visit: a resident was glaring at me as I spent time with some of the others in the room. When I approached him, the biggest smile came across his face, and he told me he once had a similar dog. He was so happy to have a few minutes with Gadget.”
Other squad volunteers and their pups have had equally memorable moments: Mary Federici met a resident who had been a dog breeder, who opened the conversation with a comment about Avis’ grooming.
Tina Nester and Kyra were excited to learn that residents look forward to this event for weeks ahead of time, and that the visit gives people some happy memories totally unrelated to their health.
And while Peggy Freeman loves seeing everyone’s smiles, her dog, Koda, can’t get enough of the attention bestowed on him.