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Therapy dogs bring new joy of life to elderly people

Romanian FOUR PAWS project 'Dogs For People' primarily looks after young people and children with special needs. For the past few months though, former stray dogs Mulan, Tuca and Tibi have also visited an aged care facility. Accompanied by therapists they visit a house for senior citizens in Bucharest every Wednesday. Many of the people living there are so enthusiastic about the animals that their state of health has improved. On the UN’s International Day of Older Persons the dogs paid a surprise visit to their new "protégés".

© FOUR PAWS | George Nedelcu

The "Floare Roşie" Centre, which means "red flower", is located in Bucharest’s sixth sector. One hundred people are living here, all of whom need special care in their old age, and they are without financial means. In the spring of 2012 FOUR PAWS had already signed an agreement with political representatives of the borough, which marked the return of Stray Animal Care (SAC) to the Romanian capital. Since then veterinarians and dog specialists have been working on site, castrating and providing medical aid to animals that live on the street. At the same time FOUR PAWS ran a public education campaign about the number of abandoned dogs in Bucharest and how FOUR PAWS is working with them. Mulan, Tuca and Tibi are also former stray dogs. They were chosen during an earlier SAC campaign and trained as therapy dogs.

The best day of the week

For the inhabitants of "Floare Roşie" the International Day of Older Persons is usually not much of a reason to celebrate: only very few of them get regular callers. But this has changed with the start of the Dogs For People project. Every Wednesday, many residents of the home eagerly await the arrival of the dogs and prepare treats which they organise from the canteen.

Psychologists who supervise the programme have established after only a few months that the psychological state of some seniors has improved markedly since the dogs' weekly visits. One elderly lady, for instance, is suffering from schizophrenia and refused to get up anymore. Since she was asked to take one of the dogs for a walk in the garden, she is up on her feet again. This year, the senior citizens’ day was a Monday. The dogs' surprise visit created much joy for the residents in the house of the red flower.