The program worked by screening companion animals (pets) as possible candidates to bring to an assisted living facility, the majority of the residents have memory issues. I contacted a licensed dog trainer, who completed the screening as well as supervises every visit. We visited the facility every Saturday, and each session went for approximately one hour.

I started this as a 17 year old and now am 18. I am female, based in the US.

Some pictures: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/14U_22eBv48v8nCk9qW72uwACPjSji4JL?usp=sharing

Comments: 297 • Responses: 66  • Date: 

Receiverstud187 karma

First off, I just want to say thank you for doing what you do. It warms my heart when I see people going out of their way to help better the lives of the elderly. It's such a lonely and hard time to be alive. That being said, how excited are the people you bring these dogs to? How often do they get to do this?

tesscrooks132 karma

They're excited, but often they forget that I'm coming. I go every Saturday with the pups.

However I'm there multiple times a week. Generally 3-4. My grandma is living there.

Thanks for the kind words!

dwhitnee33 karma

Nicely done! You are bringing joy to lots of people, and you should feel good about that.

Memory care is a tough gig. Having to introduce yourself and your dog over and over can be exhausting, but it makes a huge difference. Even for the caregivers.

Don't be afraid to give yourself a break, too. Therapy dog teams (owners and dogs) can get burnt out, so take a break when you need it.

tesscrooks41 karma

Thank you!

And I'm not afraid of taking breaks, but thank you for your concern. I fear missing moments and time with my grandma.

kylow_ren11 karma

You're a good person and a great granddaughter

tesscrooks4 karma

Thank you!!

pazuzu_17 karma

Keep it going- my family had history of dementia and pets bring smiles when we don't think it's possible.

tesscrooks5 karma

Thank you! And that's the plan!

TheMonsterWithinYou2 karma

Please come to my place of work. They need the lift

tesscrooks5 karma

Where are you based? I'm in southern NH

heeheemjmj146 karma

What are the benefits of elderly people spending time with animals? What do you think of the robotic dogs that some facilities usr?

tesscrooks168 karma

Some benefits: The residents tended to connect with myself/ the trainer better, initiating interactions, a lot of them retained focus for longer, as well as becoming grounded through touch. What I found to be most interesting is that residents would start reliving their past, calling the dogs different names, and talking about needing to go feed the animals.

The robotic dogs, even stuffed animals, are beneficial in the sense that there is little to no upkeep, however it's a very solitary interaction, so no conversation is made. Also robotic animals are much less expensive than paying a therapy/ service animal and trainer to come in.

Ravenclaw925 karma

Wait, there are actually robotic dogs?

tesscrooks4 karma

Yeah there are

JungleCatStevens37 karma

Do any of the residents at the facility ever ask about cats?

tesscrooks65 karma

Yes, and I sometimes bring my cat in. When I am home (I'm currently at work) I will post a link of my cat there! His name is buddy, he is very stupid.

I attempted to allow cats to participate, but the trainer is not certified and has not experience with cats.

Also, cats are kind of assholes, and difficult to train.

JungleCatStevens15 karma

Yes I have had mine for 12 years and I have up trying to control him long ago

tesscrooks20 karma

Yeah. Nothing against them, I love cats. But they're not like dogs in their eagerness to please.

freewiffy12 karma

Some are. A good friend has a cat that does wellness visits to the hospital. It took a few interviews with the staff that were only used to dogs for her to be approved. She's a very affectionate tabby that isn't spooked by spasms or sudden movements.

tesscrooks15 karma

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-2jEv4OKlEWh98HZFeLJRJPLeAfsRx5C?usp=sharing

Theres Buddy! I didn't feel comfortable showing him with residents because I don't have consent, but there he is. He gets carried around in bags.

popemasta35 karma

How does insurance work for something like this?

tesscrooks68 karma

No insurance was needed. However the dog trainer did bring in her copies of insurance proving that her dog is therapy certified.

I drafted and distributed 3 waivers-

  1. The facility to sign, acknowledging the risk and allowing me to bring in un-certified animals. As well as taking photos.
  2. Whoever had power of attorney for residents. They read and signed, this was mostly so I could release and distribute photos, as well as talking about the stories.
  3. Owners of the dog participants, allowing for transport, photos, and food.

(The plan is for me to go on to law school, so this was a good learning experience!)

All vaccination paperwork was also required, understandably so.

popemasta31 karma

Wow, I'm amazed the facility allows this.

I just see liability everywhere.

tesscrooks28 karma

Honestly I was as shocked as you are.

attemptpositivityyy26 karma

What are the requirements of the dogs to pass muster?

My dog is a big calm lab mix who loves company but I feel like health and safety could make this tough where I live.

tesscrooks27 karma

Calmness, even temperament, not biting/ growling.

We were not allowed to bring in animals when food was being served. Also all the dogs were generally clean- ish before going in.

I really was lucky in matching with this facility, AND with the group of dogs, AND the dog trainer (I actually took music lessons from her through 7 years).

Babaluba24 karma

Alright, so I have huge dreams of running a senior and special needs dog sanctuary. I've drafted out all sorts of things (ideas, plans for structures to build, security, etc) and I've thought of ways to help benefit my community with it and aside from doing things like having kids come read to the dogs (always rotating dogs to avoid stress and also only allowing dogs on leashes who are well mannered), having dogs go to local schools and events, and registering the well tempered ones as therapy dogs. I gotta know, because bringing therapy dogs to local retirement homes was part of my plan, how hard was it to set this whole thing up? Was the process expensive or anything?

tesscrooks5 karma

It's not expeinsive but it is a lot of networking, and waivers. You need a dog trainer and a facility, and I knew a dog trainer AND my grandma was just put in a facility so I had all of the networking done going in.

ASongOnceKnown21 karma

How do you make sure that any residents or staff who have allergies or phobias, or are simply uncomfortable, are not exposed to the dogs?

What precautions do you take to prevent the spread of MRSA, along with other zoonotic diseases?

tesscrooks16 karma

Good question, surprised no one has asked yet!

So there were required health forms we had to have. But that's only rabies, kennel cough ex.

We'd give a dog a once over before we went in. It was also recommended, though not required,that dogs were groomed (however this was more to allow residents to brush dogs).

Paws were clean before going inside.

The dogs were only allowed to pee/ poop outdoors, never inside near people.

Immune compromised patients were either transported in hospitals, or had masks on.

Allergies were handled with the frequent vacuuming, and wipe downs of surfaces.

As for phobias, it was customary for the dog trainer or myself to ask if a resident was comfortable to say hi to the dogs.

kadekiz14 karma

This is an awesome project! What brought you to such a compassionate and thoughtful program? What’s you’re favorite breed to work with? Good luck with this project. Thank you for bringing joy to all those you work with.

tesscrooks28 karma

I had/ have severe depression, and regardless of what my emotions were my dog always made me feel a little better. I don't have a favorite breed! I'm a proud owner of 2 mutts. And half the dogs were mutts as well :)

Size wise the smaller dogs were a hit, so that people could hold them.

Thanks for the support and kind words!

sirinah11 karma

What you did/do is really lovely. You've inspired me to get back into volunteering again. Seniors are often neglected and feel very isolated in assisted living. Thanks for doing something so nice for others and thanks for sharing it with us. I hope the doggies enjoy doing visits, too!

tesscrooks7 karma

Thank you! And do is correct, it's on going. Volunteer with elderly! They are amazing, and sadly forgotten.

The dogs do enjoy it! I wouldn't feel comfortable bringing them if they weren't :)

TheT

gogopops11 karma

I love the middle picture the dog looks really interested!

What was she talking about?

tesscrooks12 karma

That's one of my absolute favorite residents. She was talking about cats!

Gravybadger10 karma

You aren't feeding the elderly to the dogs, are you?

tesscrooks8 karma

Nope! Or vice- versa

danielb079 karma

Has this program reached any colleges in the form of any club or organization?

tesscrooks11 karma

No, unfortunately. I'm going to college in Boston, and there's assisted living facilities, however I dont have anyone I know in the city I could borrow dogs from. And the dog trainer, who made this all happen, living 1.5 hours out of Boston.

danielb074 karma

Interesting, where’d you find this trainer? Implementing something similar down here in Florida would be amazing for the elderly.

tesscrooks3 karma

She was my flute teacher for 7 years. 3,4 years ago she chose to certify her dog. And then she started participating in 2 non profits working to screen dogs for being certified.

ChopsNZ9 karma

This is so cool. I used to take my mini doxie in to a local test home and the residents loved her. One lady Pearl was bed bound and in the hospital unit. She had a number of strokes non verbal and was defiantly the most high needs resident but she became so much more animated and engaged with my wee carpet wrecker. She'd have her sitting on her bed proud as punch as we wheeled her around around like the Captain of a Spanish Galleon with her trusty sidekick.

We also had a fire one time as in an actual fire and she was fairly distressed even though an evacuation would have been easily managed. She was obviously a very caring lady and had been one of those take charge people and she sure as shit was determined to make sure my dog was going with her. No dog left behind!

I think it must be so hard for these people who are so used to being the ones everyone else has always relied on to be the sensible adult to have the tables turned and now they are reliant on others to care for them to have something like an animal to look after. It makes them feel like their old competent selves I guess. Don't worry Pearl I'll look after you but I need your help now too. Can I put you in charge of Pippen? I know you will look after her.

I miss Pearl.

tesscrooks6 karma

I loved reading that. I hope you still go see Pearl. Thank you!

SomedayImGonnaBeFree6 karma

How did you figure out that this is something you wanted to spend time on?

tesscrooks9 karma

My grandma was moved into the facility this takes part in, and I asked around about bringing in my dog/ cat, and the facility was really interested! After taking in my cat in a couple times, you could see how much the residents interacted when there was an animal present, and how they readily engaged.

I also couldn't imagine living without seeing any animals, ever.

As said in another comment:

- My dog, her name is patty. I have a slew of psychological issues, and she always managed to make me feel just a little bit better.

-The dog trainer. I took music lessons from her for 7 years. She has always been so loving, patient, kind and empathetic. She has shown me how to be better, and there is no one in this world I could have shared this project with!

ToxicBeer6 karma

Are these dogs certified in dog therapy? In what state is this program being held?

tesscrooks6 karma

None of them are certified. Southern NH.

foodlovin5 karma

Is this a full time job? Where does your funding come from?

tesscrooks8 karma

Just volunteering, once a week, all day saturday.

Funding comes from family, all it is is gas $$ for transport. Which is huge.

JebbieSans1875 karma

What are some of the less common tasks the dogs are trained for?

tesscrooks12 karma

I don't know if this qualifies as "less common" but walking next to wheelchairs/ walkers. Also peeing a lot before going in.

JebbieSans1875 karma

Oh, peeing a lot is interesting! That makes sense, but wouldn't have thought of it!

tesscrooks6 karma

Theres this 30 lbs mutt. Small little chunk, but pees minimum of 4 times before going in. As well as needs a 30 minute pee break!

SuperSniperGirl4 karma

Could you maybe train dogs from shelters to do this? So the elderly profit but the dogs get some much needed attention too?

tesscrooks5 karma

I tried to do this but the shelter only wanted me to bring them to one location, and I needed 2 (one for screening, one for the participating) so for me it wasn't an option, unfortunately. It was my first thought.

Additionally just for practicality sake, I was fearful of having shelter animals indoors, in a carpeted facility just in case of an accident

Also at the start of all this I was 17, and would be unable to transport shelter animals as a minor.

L1TCH4204 karma

Any particularly heartwarming stories you've heard/seen that you're comfortable with sharing (identifying details omitted)?

tesscrooks9 karma

One lady wanted to take one of the dogs to lay down and take a nap in her bed with. However I personally was not comfortable with that, she settled for walking a lap or two with the dog.

I have 2 shitzu esc dogs. One is 30 lbs, one is 9 lbs. I get yelled at, frequently, for not taking care of, and withholding food from "their" (being possessed by the residents) dogs! It's really hard to keep a straight face, but it is funny, however sad.

Deeyennay4 karma

I’m impressed with how you’re able to deal with all of this at a fairly young age. Fantastic job with your program.

tesscrooks2 karma

:)

Buksage4 karma

Can i work for ya?

tesscrooks7 karma

Uhh, I work a shitty retail job, and I'm not a manager. But if you'd like to make $9/h and sell jeans apply to Levi's!

This is all volunteer based, no money. I don't think I'd be comfortably taking money for this.

tesscrooks3 karma

But in all seriousness, you can volunteer with the elderly, or dogs!

WeAreButStardust3 karma

What do you do to prevent the spread of superbugs between patients? Therapy Dogs are proven vectors for communicable disease in hospitals.

tesscrooks7 karma

Because these dogs are not therapy dogs, they come only once a week. This decreases the likely hood they carry illnesses, and they are groomed frequently.

It's also not a hospital, it's an assisted living facility. All critical care patients are transported to the hospital.

irislatour3 karma

Do you know if anything like this exists in the Los Angeles area? I’ve been looking for volunteer opportunities and this sounds so incredible.

tesscrooks3 karma

I don't know, my apologies. I'm based in NH. But I HIGHLY suggest volunteering at shelters, or at nursing homes. Regardless of if you bring an animal, a lot of the elderly are really lonely.

If you yourself would like to start one:

Steps:

  1. Find a facility that would allow animals to visit that are NOT certified. Draft waivers (or pm for mine)
  2. Find a dog trainer that would be interested in volunteering, you would need them to supervise every visit.
  3. Find dogs! Meet first with the trainer and the dogs! Draft waivers for owners (or pm for mine)
  4. Before you visit, if you want to take photos you MUST have explicit, written consent from whoever has power of attorney!
  5. Go! Bring treats

SomedayImGonnaBeFree3 karma

What was the most challenging problem you encountered while getting everything set up?

tesscrooks7 karma

Driving! I am a horrid driver, I hate driving, and I have zero directional skills. I would need to pick up/ drop off every dog. I once drove to mass, 30 minutes out of my way, because I clicked the wrong street address.

Littleton, MA instead of Hollis, NH.

fugensnot2 karma

I know you mentioned cats just now, and how dogs are expensive.

What about kittens? My job had a wellness event where the local cat shelter brought in fully vaccinated kittens in a closed room, and staff that liked kittens/disregarded their allergies, could play with them for an hour. The event was free, the shelter person spoke about how pets relieve stress, and staff were just delighted. I also think two people walked away, ready to become fosters.

tesscrooks3 karma

Kittens are difficult because they tend to bite and scratch. Skin, especially skin on the hands and face, gets really thin with age. And it gets progressively more difficult to regenerate cells. And that's without adding in poor circulation from diabetes.

Also bladder control.

terribletoiny2 karma

What or Who inspired you to start this journey?

tesscrooks9 karma

My dog, her name is patty. I have a slew of psychological issues, and she always managed to make me feel just a little bit better.

My grandmother. She is 89, and has dementia. She loves dogs, and when we moved her into assisted living she would miss them.

The dog trainer. I took music lessons from her for 7 years. She has always been so loving, patient, kind and empathetic. She has shown me how to be better, and there is no one in this world I could have shared this project with!

I just really love dogs.

MsStilettos1 karma

Do you wear a cape?

tesscrooks2 karma

No! I wear a lot of tie dye, and lots of double denim. I wear tie dye because it's easily recognizable to residents, and that they can remember me as the dog person

The_Masterofbation1 karma

Do you bring old dogs together with old people?

tesscrooks2 karma

Yes! They're often the most mellow pups and love to be pet and give their full attention to the elderly.

EvoSeanzie1 karma

What is it called? They have a program like that where my girlfriend works. She does geriatric rehabilitation.

tesscrooks1 karma

Hm, I don't think I have a name for it. However the place I'm based at is assisted living primarily in memory care. In southern NH.

EvoSeanzie1 karma

Ah, that's very far from me. Would have been awesome if you were running it where she is! Anyway, great job with everything you've accomplished!

tesscrooks2 karma

Thanks!

Please tell the girlfriend thank you for all that she does.

InSixFour1 karma

Where are you located? I’d love to have you come out to our facilities!

tesscrooks1 karma

Southern NH!

stefitigar1 karma

I visited my grandma for the first time in 6 years and was shocked to discover her mental sharpness was fading. She was repeating herself and struggling very hard to remember very much at all. I decided to get her a puppy to help stimulate her during the day as she is otherwise alone for the most part aside from occasional visits from her sister. 1 week later and the improvement in her cognitive abilities is breathtaking!

Have you experienced anything like this?

tesscrooks2 karma

No, unfortunately.

Baloneycoma1 karma

Have you read “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande? There is a section that talks about a very similar project and the incredible benefits it has on the elderly at their care facility, I think you’d like it. Great work

tesscrooks2 karma

I haven't, but I'll look into it!

schade_marmelade1 karma

I‘m really interested in the logistics and business side of this since I dream of starting my own charity for the elderly someday!

  • How do you transport the dogs to the facility? I pitched a business for a dog café some months back and was shot down due to the transportation issue so I‘d love to hear how you were able to solve this problem.

  • How are you able to secure funding and volunteers for the program?

Thanks so much and good luck with your program! If I lived in the US, I would have definitely volunteered :)

tesscrooks2 karma

  1. All funding is transport costs! My family agreed to cover it which is huge.
  2. Volunteers is 2 people. Myself and the dog trainer.

To start!

  1. Find a facility that would allow animals to visit that are NOT certified. Draft waivers (or pm for mine)
  2. Find a dog trainer that would be interested in volunteering, you would need them to supervise every visit.
  3. Find dogs! Meet first with the trainer and the dogs! Draft waivers for owners (or pm for mine)
  4. Before you visit, if you want to take photos you MUST have explicit, written consent from whoever has power of attorney!
  5. Go! Bring treats

Thank you!

-Jimbo_Slice-1 karma

Hi,

How did you come about doing what you do?

tesscrooks3 karma

My grandma was moved into the facility this takes part in, and I asked around about bringing in my dog/ cat, and the facility was really interested! After taking in my cat in a couple times, you could see how much the residents interacted when there was an animal present, and how they readily engaged.

I couldn't imagine living without seeing any animals, ever.

As said in another comment, some big influences:

  1. My dog, her name is patty. I have a slew of psychological issues, and she always managed to make me feel just a little bit better.
  2. The dog trainer. I took music lessons from her for 7 years. She has always been so loving, patient, kind and empathetic. She has shown me how to be better, and there is no one in this world I could have shared this project with!
  3. the dog trainer

TL/RD I love dogs. I enjoy elderly people. And I like volunteering. It's the happy love child.

ryansd771 karma

This is is so inspiring and wonderful. I’ve worked with elderly patients with TBIs and other cognitive disorders and they respond so well to animals. Can you go into a little more detail about the process? How I would go about doing it in my own city.

tesscrooks3 karma

Steps:

  1. Find a facility that would allow animals to visit that are NOT certified. Draft waivers (or pm for mine)

  2. Find a dog trainer that would be interested in volunteering, you would need them to supervise every visit.

  3. Find dogs! Meet first with the trainer and the dogs! Draft waivers for owners (or pm for mine)

  4. Before you visit, if you want to take photos you MUST have explicit, written consent from whoever has power of attorney!

  5. Go! Bring treats

WIT_MY_WOES1 karma

How are you funded?

tesscrooks2 karma

All the volunteering is free (just me and the dog trainer).

Only cost is transport $, which my parents pay for.

cinemachick1 karma

Would you be interested in donations to cover the cost of transportation? I bet a GoFundMe or Patreon with pictures of the dogs would be a big hit!

Also, as a part-time college counselor, this is exactly the kind of extracurricular that shines on a college resume. Let me know if you'd like any advice on how to weave this experience into your application!

tesscrooks2 karma

No, but thank you!! My parents are really lovely and they agreed to cover the costs of transport. And I already was accepted into college. Simmons class of '23. I forgot to put it on my application. Thank you!

Mtrebor1231 karma

What's the nitty-gritty of the paperwork behind-the-scenes? is there any kind of cash flow, did you register as a non-profit? or is it strictly just volunteer and it happens and no money exchanged, no donations accepted, etc?

tesscrooks1 karma

I drafted and distributed 3 waivers-

  1. The facility to sign, acknowledging the risk and allowing me to bring in un-certified animals. As well as taking photos.
  2. Whoever had power of attorney for residents. They read and signed, this was mostly so I could release and distribute photos, as well as talking about the stories.
  3. Owners of the dog participants, allowing for transport, photos, and food.

There is zero cash flow. Because of this, and because it's strictly volunteer base I didn't feel the need to register as non-profit. All of the money involved is the gas for transport, which my parents covered.

malbanese0000 karma

???this is great.?? I wish my nona had doggos to pet when she was on the decline.???

my??/?????? question: ??how did you start this and are you looking to expand your program to other areas????????????. if not how would you recomend someone else doing the same int heir community??????????????????????????????????????????????

tesscrooks3 karma

Thank you!

I started this because I love dogs, and I love old people, because I know a dog trainer, and my grandmother is in an assisted living facility!

Next year I will unfortunately be 1.5- 2 hours away from where I'm at right now, because of college. And to start anew my freshman year of college in a new city would be a lot. But when I'm home I'll keep doing it!

Steps:

  1. Find a facility that would allow animals to visit that are NOT certified. Draft waivers (or pm for mine)
  2. Find a dog trainer that would be interested in volunteering, you would need them to supervise every visit.
  3. Find dogs! Meet first with the trainer and the dogs! Draft waivers for owners (or pm for mine)
  4. Before you visit, if you want to take photos you MUST have explicit, written consent from whoever has power of attorney!
  5. Go! Bring treats

Boonaki-1 karma

Do you bring pit bulls to the elderly care facility?

tesscrooks1 karma

If one replied I would have!

ChimpyChompies-3 karma

Which doggo is the goodest boi?

tesscrooks3 karma

All. But Lucy (black lab/ border collie) is especially sweet. And Skylar (a little shitzu) likes licking faces and people love that.

Also the dog trainer's pup is amazing. Knows all of the tricks.

ImDrunkFightMe-5 karma

Ever had a dog gnaw on a patients leg?

tesscrooks3 karma

Forgot to say this earlier, but in doing so they would have automatically been kicked out of this program.

tesscrooks3 karma

Nope! We had no biting or growling. Any dogs who would be prone to that would be screened out in the first screening session (there were 2)

One dog jumped, but only on me and it was pretty infrequent.

-GRIMR3AP3R--6 karma

Do you support PETA?

tesscrooks10 karma

NOPE! Not even a little bit.

shadyx8-7 karma

Dont you think its irrisponsible to allow dangerous animals like dogs near the elderly?

tesscrooks9 karma

No. These dogs have been people's pets for years (youngest is 4.5). They were screened twice by a certified trainer. Every visit was supervised by a dog trainer.

FuckTheTTC-11 karma

Why are white people obsessed with dogs?

tesscrooks6 karma

Uhh, I'm half white. Other half is chinese, if you're wondering.

But 100% obsessed with dogs