Not-So-Little Mamma: A Followup

Throughout this entire pandemic, I’ve been blown away by how much of an impact my dog Rosie has had on our residents. I wrote the below over three years ago now (!!) and while I knew at that time she was destined for big things, I could’ve never imagined just how big they (or she) would be.

In 2018, I adopted Rosie with the intention of having her be our “house dog”. Admittedly, I copied the idea from a fellow assisted living company (who I coincidentally work for now!); house pets were a signature touch of theirs and, naturally, I loved it. Since she came home with me at just 8 weeks old, my hunny’s been coming to work every single day (no call-outs allowed). We’re a package deal, Pose and I, and I’m certain this nightmare of a year would’ve been even more difficult had it not been for her sweet soul.

My loves were confined to their rooms for a sad, isolating, scary ~12 months. At first, I could see she was rattled by that: Where was everyone? What happened to the hustle & bustle, the dining room snacks, the endless affection? Why was everybody so on edge all of a sudden?! There was a shift from being center of attention to a lost pup, unsure of how to spend her time with her newly-masked coworkers. Eventually, though, she found a new purpose, perhaps even more crucial than the original: suite stops. Rosie made daily rounds to visit with, comfort, and cheer up our nonnos and nonnas when they could no longer come down to her.

Obviously, her presence didn’t fix things – 2020 was an f’ing nightmare. I like to think it made things better, though, if only marginally. A particularly touching memory I’ll cherish forever is pictured below, featuring a devastated resident attending her own son’s funeral via FaceTime, with Rosie by her side. Mamma, “thankful” doesn’t begin to describe it. ❤

As if it wasn’t already evident from previous posts (and my Instagram bio), I am a huge dog lover. I worked through undergrad and grad school at the most incredible kennel, and I grew up with Shepherds and Labs. I’ve always hoped to somehow combine my love for dogs and seniors – to do meaningful work that involves both. This weekend, I took the first step toward doing just that: I rescued a three-month-old puppy. I know, I know…I work 65+ hours a week, I’m never home, and to say I travel often would be an understatement. I promise there is a method to my madness.

It’s no secret that the effects dogs have on people of all ages are immense. Within an instant, they can make us feel happy, loved, and safe – simultaneously excited and calm. Physically, they keep us active and in turn help our hearts. Dogs reduce stress (except during the housebreaking stages perhaps) and teach us lessons. For seniors especially, they can be pivotal in decreasing loneliness and improving mood; dogs live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow, and according to Dr. Jay Granat, tomorrow can be very scary for someone who is elderly:

“Having a pet helps the senior focus on something other than physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.”

And focus on them they do. That goes for both physical impairments and cognitive ones. Individuals with dementia (particularly in earlier stages) tend to be extremely stressed, and understandably so; they recognize that something’s wrong but can’t necessarily distinguish it from what is right. They’re not only confused, but also frightened and embarrassed. Here’s where my little mamma comes in:

“I sort of think that anybody with Alzheimer’s could benefit by a friendly little dog. Somebody they can play with and talk to – it’s kinda nice to talk to a dog that you know is not going to talk back. And you can’t make a mistake that way. … My dog knows things about me before I know them myself. … The one thing I know is that the dog is with me, and when she’s with me I at least have some solace, even if I don’t know the way.”

– Cary Henderson, Partial View

Rosie, that’s your cue. Introducing the newest member of our team and family:

The impact this little girl has had on our residents in three short days is immeasurable. I’m completely blown away. I have no doubt she will continue to amaze me. She is, after all, a dog ❤ one of the only beings that will ever love us without condition or complication. Mamma, we are so thankful for you already.

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