Dogs help ease pandemic loneliness for nursing home residents

Eileen Nagle sees her family in video chats and drive-by visits, but that hasn’t made up for the lack of warm hugs in the nine months since the pandemic led her nursing home to shut its doors to visitors.

Enter Zeus.

“Zeus is a friendly little snowball, very happy,” said Nagle, 79, after the peppy bichon frise paid a visit to her room at Hebrew Home at Riverdale, overlooking the Hudson River in the Bronx. “Petting and playing with the dogs breaks up the day and gets you to forget about yourself for a while.”

Hebrew Home has had a pet therapy program for 20 years; tiny Zeus and gentle giant Marley the Great Dane are the current snugglers in residence. Now, the activities department is expanding the canine corps with two new recruits in training to give residents more of the affectionate physical contact that has become so scarce and precious in the coronavirus era.

“It’s uplifting to have Zeus come and visit me, especially with COVID and being restricted to my room,” said 80-year-old Jeff Philipson, beaming as he ran his fingers through Zeus’ silky white fur while the dog clambered on his bed. “I talk on the phone every day with my daughter and my son, but that’s as good as it can get for now.”

Source: Associated Press  – MARY ESCH

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