A Poodle? That’s just what the doctor ordered.

A Poodle? That’s just what the doctor ordered.

Parise’s dog is a certified therapy animal. Together, they brighten the lives of seniors living in longterm care residences. Who needs a doctor when there’s a Poodle in the house?

May 10, 2020

Pecan, also known as Monsieur Pecan, is a sweet and loving Miniature Poodle. His Pawsie, Parise, volunteered for a dozen years at a canine adoption service and loved the opportunity to help abandoned dogs. "Within each of these abandoned animals lies a story of suffering," she says.

The stories that caused Parise the most angst concerned the elderly: "Just imagine the heartbreak experienced by elderly people who, because of their frailties and loss of independence, are hospitalized or placed in longterm care, and are separated from their beloved pets.”

Driven by the desire to do something meaningful, Parise got in touch with Barbara Paul, founder of Caring Paws Animal Therapy in Montreal’s West Island, to get Pecan certified as a therapy dog—which isn’t a simple task!

During the first evaluation meeting, Parise’s dog had to, among other things, sit on the knees of his human for more than 30 minutes. Pecan rose to the challenge! Nine months later, after an initial supervised visit in a residence, the duo was ready to fly on their own. For the last 6 months, Parise and Pecan have alternated weekly visits between two senior centres.

Parise these activities would be perfect for Monsieur Pecan. "For starters, he’s very handsome!” she laughs. “He loves to be admired. I only need to tell him, ‘Come and I’ll make you look nice’ and he’ll rush over. He lets himself be brushed, and have his teeth and eyes cleaned!” For visits to the residences, Pecan usually wears accessories such as a bowtie or a jacket. For St. Patrick's Day, Parise found a green buckle and four-leaf clovers to decorate the dog’s big fluffy ears. Pecan is also very gentle with the seniors. To encourage interaction between Pecan and a resident, Parise places a blanket on the elderly person's lap, which signals Pecan to climb up and curl into a ball. The reactions of the elderly, sitting there with an adorable, gentle dog in their lap, are heartfelt. Parise observes that these therapy visits often prompt the resident to open up and connect with both visitors. Nothing is forced.

The conversations flow quite naturally. Sometimes Parise will ask the residents about their lives and she just listens, and other times they simply sit together in silence as the resident enjoys Pecan’s loving touch.

The animal therapy visits can sometimes be emotional, even difficult. One of the centres they visit offers care to people living with Alzheimer's. Caution and a delicate approach are required with such individuals. Parise witnesses moments of distress, but she also bears witness to the smiles and outstretched hands—moments of silent connection with residents who sometimes have trouble expressing themselves. Each week, Parise’s heart and soul are filled with the stories of the residents they visit. And it’s all thanks to Monsieur Pecan.

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