Aurora senior citizens look forward to visits by therapy dog

by Mike Lesko | reporter Published:

Aurora -- Parker, a golden retriever and a trained therapy dog, eagerly eyed some treats from a small group of residents April 3 during his monthly visit to Independence Village of Aurora.

"He'll do anything for food," said Aurora's Patty Stedman, Parker's owner.

A female resident slid her chair closer to the dog. "Are you having a good time?" she asked Parker, petting him.

"He's having a great time -- and he's gotten lots of treats," Stedman said, smiling.

With no more treats in sight, Parker gazed at a banana that one of the residents was holding. "No, you can't have his banana," Stedman calmly told Parker with a smile.

Parker, who is 8 years old, brings much more than a fondness of treats to the senior citizens assisted living facility, though. He puts smiles on the faces of the residents, many of whom have previously owned dogs.

"Having Parker here really helps our residents," said Allison Tucker, Independence Village's life enrichment director. "It makes them want to talk and socialize more. He brings out a different side of the residents. They feel like reminiscing more when Parker is here."

Stedman, a former third-grade teacher at Leighton School, brings Parker to Independence Village on South Chillicothe Road, on the first Wednesday of each month from 1 to 2 p.m. The dog has been making the visits for about a year.

Stedman said when she puts a red and blue bandana from Therapy Dog International around Parker's neck, the dog seems to know where he is headed.

"Parker knows he's going to visit people who are going to pet him. He really likes that," Stedman said. "He gets very excited. Bringing Parker here makes the residents remember the good times they've had with dogs. It's uplifting for them."

Residents at Independence Village were thrilled to hang out with Parker.

Resident Isabelle Lapenna said she looks forward to Parker's visits.

"I like to pet Parker. He's so smooth," she said. "He's a very gentle dog. It's very calming when Parker is around."

RESIDENT Janice Kelley has had numerous dogs, including two poodles, a Boston terrier and a collie. "This is the first time I've seen Parker," she said. "I love to pet him. He's so friendly and loving."

Resident Vernon Braun said his family had two dogs where he previously lived in Macedonia and owned several other dogs prior to that.

"I like Parker's friendliness and obedience," he said. "This precious dog keeps us young. I always mark it on my calendar when he's going to be here."

Resident Bob Markowitz said he "wouldn't miss seeing Parker for the world. I've had a lot of dogs. When she brings Parker around, it's really something. To pet a dog feels good. I always come to see Parker when he's here."

"I enjoy his visits," resident Flo Schwartz said as she handed Parker a treat.

"He's a nice dog," resident Don Reminger added.

Throughout the visit, Stedman talked with residents about the dogs they used to own and told them about Parker.

"Winter is Parker's favorite month," Stedman told a group of seniors. "Parker is really a snow dog. He sled rides on his back. He likes to swim in the lake in the summer, too. If I throw a ball out into the lake, he'll go get it. That's the retriever in him."

Stedman described how when they go for walks in wooded areas, Parker unsuccessfully tries to sneak up on squirrels, who scurry up trees and make chirping sounds, leaving Parker to circle the base of the tree trunks.

"We haven't caught any squirrels yet, but we try," she said, leaning over to pet her dog.

When it was time to leave, Stedman walked Parker toward the front desk, where receptionist Pattie Tonkin spotted the dog, then gave him a biscuit and received a kiss in return.

"I love dogs," Tonkin said. "Parker's a good dog, and he knows where to come for food."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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  • A great initiative. Seniors need love and company, and since most of them treat pets as their family, dogs are an excellent choice. Its great to see initiatives that will help the elderly spend the golden years of their life in dignity.