Close Cadillac News article

Dog visits are therapeutic to residents of Autumnwood
By Tanya Berkebile

Every Wednesday morning, Duke walks through the halls at Autumnwood of McBain with his head held high.


As he heads to the office of the activities department, he hears several greetings such as "Hi sweetheart" or "How are you doing, Duke?" Once he reaches the office, he is then able to wear his badge that reads "Duke - Number 1 Activities Assistant."


On the days Duke is expected to visit, many residents sit outside their room in anticipation of his arrival. And within minutes after he steps into the front door, there is a buzz around Autumnwood - everyone knows he is there and is anxious to greet him.


What makes Duke one of the more popular staff members at Autumnwood is he is much unlike the other staff - he is a large, Great Dane dog.


"Everyone loves Duke and even those people who might not normally have a response to think, their face lights up when he is around," said Jan Meekhof, who works in the activities department. "It is quite funny because when he comes in the building, everyone gets excited and word spreads that he has arrived."

Not only is his weekly visit enjoyable for the residents, but Duke enjoys it as well. Somehow, Duke knows when he gets to "go to work," according to his owner Tammy Morrow.


"He knows when he gets to go and he gets really excited," said Morrow, activities assistant at Autumnwood. "When we get to McBain, he starts whining. And if he does miss a week, he gets even more excited."


Duke hasn’t always been a happy-go-lucky dog. Long before Morrow adopted him from Amy Acres Rescue on, he had been abused and malnourished. After he was rescued, he spent about 10 months being nursed into good health and was then able to be put on


"We inquired about him and had to go through an interview and home inspection before we could get him," Morrow said. "It has been amazing how well he has worked out for the family and at Autumnwood and we couldn’t have asked for a better dog."


If asked, Duke probably wouldn’t complain. On the days he "works" at Autumnwood, he not only gets attention through petting and greetings. There are some rooms where Duke makes an appearance at least once, as he knows a treat will be awaiting him.


"He knows which rooms to go to for treats or left-over scraps from a meal," Meekhof said. "Some residents save him a piece of sausage or a half of sandwich. He has a lot of fans."


Duke visits also can be therapeutic to residents, according to Meekhof.


Some residents who communicate very little have a complete change when Duke visits.


Meekhof said they smile and reach out to pet him and it may be the only movement or exercise all week.

There also are many residents who have owned a pet for most of their live and it changes once they move to a nursing facility. One example is Florence Borden, who said she has had a dog her entire life.


"For so many residents, that has changed and these visits are all the more special to them," Meekhof said. "We do have some pets who come in for a short visit, but they are there for a certain family member. With Duke, he is here to see everybody. The residents feel like he is their dog." | ¨ 775-NEWS (6397)