Therapy dogs bring joy to long-term care homes despite COVID-19
SUDBURY -- It's not the type of visit that the dogs or clients are used to, but even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Magical Paws Pet Therapy is finding a way to bring love into long-term care homes.
"What we did originally back in March was we sent cards with picture of the dogs to tell them that we're thinking of them, that we miss them and to be strong and be safe," said Annette Lumbis, founder of Magical Paws Pet Therapy in Sudbury.
Before the virus, Magical Paws Pet Therapy was visiting 18-21 homes a month, including long-term care residences, nursing homes and retirement homes.
With COVID-19 restrictions in place to keep everyone safe, volunteers had to get creative. Cards with pictures of the dogs and personalized messages have been sent to the homes, as well as more than 500 hand-made paper flowers and ornaments to remind residents they haven't been forgotten.
"The residents really get attached to the dogs. They won't remember us, but they remember our dogs," said Lumbis. "Sometimes, their families will say, 'They don't even remember my name, yet they remember your dog.' So I think it's important for them to know that we're still there, we're still here, we're thinking of them and we're going to do everything we can do be safe so that we can end this COVID-19 as early as possible and get back to visiting."
Currently, the non-profit organization is creating a video of all the volunteers and their dogs to send out to the homes.
Lumbis says not being able to visit clients is impacting the dogs, as well.
"Some of the members have said that their dogs are depressed, that they look out the window and are sad," she said. "We have dogs that actually go get their bandanna because they want to go (visit). They cry when their handler takes off because they think they're going with them."
Although it's not the interaction that residents are used to, the extra gifts are well received, Lumbis said.
"They've done videos and put it on Facebook and you can see them opening the card and they see the picture of the dog and say 'oh that's Maddy or that's Brooke.' So you can see that it really makes a difference in their lives.
"They know who we are and they know that we're still there for them."