Emmanuel's best friend
BY BRIAN WIERIMA
It's a dog's life, and in the case of She-Bear, it's a pretty doggone good one.
Residents, staff and visitors at Emmanuel Nursing Home have seen the black Labrador roaming the hallways in search of affection and treats since the summer of 2006.
She-Bear has been a perfect fit as the resident pet at Emmanuel Nursing Home with her calm and loving demeanor, as she gives back as much affection as she receives.
Not having an excitable or threatening bone in her body also makes her the perfect dog for a nursing home setting.
"The residents just love her," said Director of Nursing Cheryl Krause, who also helped train She-Bear in the Canine Good Citizen program when she arrived in 2006. "On paper, it says she is my dog, but She-Bear is the entire Emmanuel Community's dog."
Just the sight of She-Bear wandering down the hallway, looking in on the residents' rooms, brings smiles to peoples' faces -- and that's one of the main reasons she was brought in.
Having a pet reduces stress and is very therapeutic for the residents and staff alike.
"Pets in general help bring a calming affect and lowers blood pressure," Krause added. "She also gives a sense of purpose and something to get out of bed for."
She-Bear's journey to Emmanuel started when she was four to five years old. One of the nurses at the home was looking for a home for She-Bear after her grandkids were allergic to her fur.
There were other dogs that went through trial runs at Emmanuel, but She-Bear was the one who passed all the tests with flying colors.
"She was a natural and isn't possessive, which is a good trait," Krause said. "We brought her in on a lead for a couple of days and she did perfect. And the rest is history."
The next step was to put her through the Canine Good Citizen training program, where dogs are taught the basics.
Her calm demeanor makes her fit right in. She doesn't jump on people, doesn't bark, is potty trained and in general, is just a great dog.
She is used for physical therapy for residents, as well.
"Petting and brushing her is great for range-of-motion exercises," Krause said.
After five years of being at Emmanuel, She-Bear has developed her daily routine.
"In the morning, she will walk to the nursing office and spend some time with them, then she goes and makes her rounds," said Emmanuel Activity Coordinator Julie Buckley, who handles She-Bear's feeding and other necessities. "She knows when the meal times are and what rooms offer treats."
She-Bear isn't allowed into any eating areas or locations that have medications for the residents.
But she does know about treats -- and with residents more than ready to offer them, she has had her fair share of treats. The lab also has a thyroid condition, and she takes medication for it on a daily basis.
"She-Bear isn't allowed to have people food and is fed once a day," Buckley said. "We give treats in a little bag to residents to give her and they just love it when she stops in their room."
After the lunch rush is over, She-Bear will make her way to an exit and wait for the nurses to take her for a walk outside.
"She walks with us about two to three times a day," Buckley said.
The hallways are She-Bear's favorite place to roam, though, and that's where she makes her presence known to residents.
"She will walk down the hallways and look into every room, and if someone isn't feeling well, she will go in and lay her head on their hand," Krause said. "She is very intuitive."
A special bond has developed between She-Bear and the residents. When the unfortunate happens and a resident passes away, She-Bear walks behind them when they are carried out of their rooms.
"She-Bear is one of their own," Krause said.
Even obstacles such as closed doors can't stop She-Bear from making her rounds throughout the building. She has learned how to ride the elevator, waiting for the doors to open and jumping in with a staff worker to ride down to the lower level.
"She always needs to be the first one out of the elevator, though," Buckley chuckled.
Being owned by a community has led to a good life for She-Bear, but she pays her owners back every single day.
After asking She-Bear for a comment for the story, she simply took the treat offered, looked up and walked down the hallway with her tail wagging.
'Nuff said. It's a good life.