Sarah Kirsch rescued her dog, Angel, from the Concord-Merrimack County SPCA, and enrolled Angel in a program to become a therapy dog through that organization. Now certified, Angel makes regular visits to nursing homes.
The presence of a therapy dog can have a significant impact on the residents.
Kirsch and Angel were directed to one resident, Pearl. Though she seemed to be unresponsive, her roommate informed Kirsch that she really did like dogs.
“So, I brought Angel over to her,” Kirsch said. “All of the sudden her eyes opened up and she smiled. Angel actually jumped up in bed with her. We started visiting her regularly after that.”
“It was the only time that she really opened up and talked, other than with her family,” Kirsch said. “It seemed like having a dog visit really made a difference for her.”
Together, Kirsch and Angel act as a service team, seeking to encourage individuals who cannot own dogs themselves, such as the elderly or those with disabilities. The pair acts as “angels” to those that they encourage.
Angel’s gentle and easy-going disposition, which uplifts so many nursing home residents, was also key to her certification. “I knew that she had a good temperament when I got her from the shelter," Kirsch said. Shortly thereafter, she enrolled Angel in the SPCA's therapy dog training program.
To be certified, Angel needed to show proficiency in several areas including navigation abilities and lack of aggression when provoked. “They had a cat in there for the test, and I was amazed that she passed because she does like to chase cats,” Kirsch said.