Therapy Dogs Warm Hearts of Taylor Community Residents
Step one foot into Bonni Taylor’s home and it’s quite clear who rules the roost – two purebred Standard Poodles, assorted cats and a parrot. But make no mistake – the menagerie is well behaved, thanks to Bonni’s patient guidance.
A dog lover and owner for years, Bonni always felt guilty leaving her pets at home while she went to work as a Licensed Nursing Assistant Belknap County Nursing Home. After retiring, she took a part-time position as a resident assistant at Taylor Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community, in Laconia.
When her beloved Mini Aussie, Aggie, passed away several years ago, Bonnie began thinking about getting another dog. She thought it would be wonderful to be able to take her pet to Taylor on the weekends and perhaps there was a way to share that canine love with the residents.
For nearly two years Bonni did her homework. “I researched different breeds and found Standard Poodles to be intelligent, easy to train, hypoallergenic and non-shedding and good with families,” she said. She joined Poodle Chat Forums and surfed breeder websites. Eventually in2007, all her hard work paid off in the form of an red-colored puppy. “I named him Farleys DV Mama He’s Crazy, after one of The Judd’s songs.” The little guy was thereafter known as Judd.
Bonni began training Judd when he was just nine weeks old.She took the pup into the nursing unit on her days off where the residents happily passed him from lap to lap. On the weekends when she worked, Judd accompanied Bonni to the assisted living building and he was an instant hit.
Meanwhile Judd’s training at home began in earnest – from Puppy Kindergarten to Basic Obedience to finally receiving his therapy dog certification through the Love on a Leash program. Bonni had to ensure the dog didn’t startle easily around people in wheelchairs or those with unsteady gaits.
Bonni started taking Judd with her on morning rounds and the residents always marveled his tricks, including “taking a bow.” They also enjoyed the way he dressed appropriately for every occasion, sporting fancy collars and even costumes when the event called for it.
In late 2010 Bonni got a companion poodle for Judd and named the black ball of fluff Mercy. They quickly bonded and the residents were excited to have another visitor on weekends.
About 10 months after Mercy came into their lives, Judd was diagnosed with an invasive tumor on his cheek. Less than two months later he was gone. It was a devastating blow to Bonni and the residents still talk about him today.
A memorial service was held for Judd and today a plaque and photo of the handsome boy still hangs in Taylor Home, complete with a dog biscuit.
Bonnie said Judd’s passing changed one resident’s outlook.“This particular resident was very afraid of dogs. She came to Judd’s memorial and told me she’d decided she wanted to get to know Mercy. Today she’s able to pether and it’s really made a change in her life.”
The beautiful Mercy is now fully grown and a wonderful therapy dog with her own bag of tricks. “If I ask Mercy if she’s happy, she jumps high in the air, about to my eye level and back down again,” said Bonni.
In June, Bonni acquired a cream-colored male poodle who reminded her so much of Judd she named him Déjà (as in Déjà vu). In just a few short months Déjà has grown from a small ball of fluff to a handsomely pompadoured teen. Bonni exercises them frequently on Taylor Home’s spacious front lawn. They can be seen racing to retrieve a tennis ball and jauntily dropping it at Bonni’s feet before taking off again in anticipation of the next throw.
Not only do the residents look forward to the visits, but the dogs do as well. “Mercy knows which residents will ring for assistance first and she goes right to their doors,” said Bonni.
“It warms my heart,” she added, about the relationship between her dogs and the residents. “I’m so grateful for the attention the residents give them.They’re so good to them and always make a special effort to come and visit use very weekend.”
Taylor Home resident Nancy Fischer grew up with dogs and has a long-term affection for them. “I’ve always been a dog lover,” she said. “Bonnie sends Mercy into my room in the morning to wake me up. So I roll over and Mercy puts her paw on the bed and there’s this smiling dog face. It’s a delightful way to start the day,” she said, beaming.
Taylor Home residents with Mercy
Bonni Taylor with Deja and Mercy
Posted in: News
Next article: Activities & Trips