2012-07-26 / Local & State

Therapy Dogs Bring Comfort To Sioux City Seniors

By Joanne Fox

SIOUX CITY JOURNAL

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) – Charlotte Snave had a couple of guys call on her at Sunrise Retirement Community.

“Say hello to Charlotte,” prodded Karen Mohring, who had accompanied Oliver and Logan to Snave's second floor room.

“Hello, hello,” Snave said with a laugh, taking the initiative and reaching toward them.

“Would you like them to give you a kiss?” Mohring asked coyly.

“Oh, absolutely,” Snave replied as Mohring helped Oliver onto her lap.

The smiles on the faces of Snave and Mohring – and maybe even the dogs, Oliver and Logan – spoke volumes about the joy that is given and received through Therapy Dogs International.

“I learned about the organization from its website,” Mohring said. “I trained my adopted dog, Oliver, and had him certified in 2001.”

Mohring started visiting with her dogs at Sunrise when she learned of the need there about six years ago.

“I had been visiting other nursing homes up to that point,” she explained.

Sue Farrell, Sunrise activities coordinator, pointed out Mohring brought a number of qualities to her volunteering at the retirement community.

“ Karen is a friend to everyone she meets,” she said. “She is dependable and consistent with her monthly visits.”

Mohring gave credit to Sunrise for making her volunteering worthwhile.

“Sue and her activity staff have been very helpful in making certain that everyone who wishes to see the dogs is included,” she said. “They know their residents very well and have told me that often the dogs will bring out words in residents who have not spoken for a while.”

Mohring has used several canines as therapy dogs. Oliver is a 13-year-old poodle mix from Sioux City Animal Adoption and Rescue Center. Marshall is an 11- year-old Australian shepherd mix from the Siouxland Humane Society. Wesley is an 8- year- old Cavalier King Charles spaniel from a local breeder. Logan is a 4-yearold Cavalier King Charles spaniel from a rescue group in Kansas. All four dogs are certified through Therapy Dogs International.

“My role in this is to ask if the resident would like to interact with the dogs and to facilitate that interaction,” she said. “He or she may want to just look at them, touch them or hold them.”

What do the dogs offer residents?

“Where do I even begin?” Farrell asked. “Karen's dogs are the most fantastic, wellmannered dogs around. It's like they have an intuition as to what a resident is feeling either physically or mentally.”

Farrell reported the Sunrise residents and staff eagerly anticipate visits from Mohring and her pets.

“Her dogs can put a smile on the most depressed person and oftentimes, they will lick the resident as if to give them a kiss to make things better,” she said. “Karen can place a dog beside a bed-ridden resident and the dog instinctively knows to lay down and snuggle up beside them. Oftentimes, the dogs will trigger a memory and a resident may share a story or two.”

Mohring also reaps benefits from her visits.

“The best part of doing this is the joy in a resident's face and being able to give back a little of the gift God has given me through these dogs,” she said.

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