The Community Visit Program: Senior Dogs Visiting Seniors

Dogs make people happy! Those who share their lives with a precious pup know that. We also know that love of dogs doesn’t end when that dog is no longer present. The Always and Furever Community Visit program brings a little of that companionship to dog lovers living in assisted living and care communities.

It all started almost three years with a phone call and an invitation. An activity director called to ask if Always and Furever ever took dogs to visit retirement communities. Immediately the answer was,“Yes, we can do that!” even though we never had. After getting approval, we recruited a few volunteers to bring an Always and Furever rescue dog, a dog in a foster home, or an alumni dog who had been adopted from Always and Furever. Then we scheduled our first visit! When the dogs arrived we saw people’s faces light up! As we took dogs from person to person, we heard stories about their own beloved dogs. We told them the story of our rescue and how each dog came into our care. Meanwhile dogs were loving all the attention! When we left, people asked whether we would come back, and we promised we would!

We now regularly visit three communities twice a month. One location prefers we knock on each resident’s door and ask if they would like a dog visit. Other locations invite residents to gather in the activity area to enjoy dogs as a group. We include visits to memory care residents. Some volunteers and their dogs have become “regulars.” Last month one community even threw a surprise birthday party for Lamar, a favorite alumni visitor! Residents ask about previous dog visitors and rejoice in hearing their adoption stories! Last summer residents gathered to prepare dog biscuit treat bags for parades including Always and Furever adoptable dogs because they want to help dogs get homes.

We would love to expand the Community Visit Program because other communities have requested dog visits. We just need more volunteers able to take dogs! Currently visits are scheduled Monday through Friday. Weekends are usually reserved for family visits. Volunteers are required to wear a mask, and vaccination
and boosters are strongly recommended. Participating dogs must have some connection to Always and Furever and be people/pet friendly. Anyone interested in volunteering should email info@alwaysandfurever.love or call 800-247-9527. We look forward to future completion of the Community Building at the Always and Furever Homestead. Small groups will be able to schedule occasional visits to visit dogs and enjoy fresh air walks with dogs along accessible paths. There might even be opportunities for cat snuggles!

Always and Furever Midwest Animal Sanctuary is well known for its commitment to saving the most at-risk pets. The Community Visit Program extends that commitment by enhancing lives through interaction with rescue dogs because there is no doubt that dogs make people happy!

–Victoria Cotsworth

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