Corinna lives and works in Pickering, Ontario running her own dog boarding and food business and for the last 12 years, has brought her dog friends in for visits at Taunton Mills long-term care home in Whitby.
Once a week for an hour, Corinna brings in dogs, some of which are elderly themselves and/or foster pets in need of a home, to visit with residents.
It's all about the smiles she sees when the dogs visit, she says. "A lot of the residents immediately start talking about the dogs they had when they were growing up. They don’t necessarily remember their own name but they remember details about their dogs."
Corinna with her dog Bowie, 2010-2015
Animals have a soothing effect on many people, but Corinna cautiously avoids anyone who has discomfort towards dogs. She goes from person to person in a common room, visiting dozens of residents each time.
"For example, I have a German Sheppard who is trained to "go visit," and sits next to the wheelchair so they can pat his head," says Corinna. Then I tell him, "good visit, good visit. It’s not about me or chatting too much, it’s all about the interaction between the dogs and the person."
When asked about what is about the dogs that helps the residents, Corinna says that for most of the seniors, it’s a way of remembering the past.
Like any person who works or volunteers in long-term care, Corinna finds herself emotionally involved with the environment.
She sees the same family members visiting and many of them remember the names of the dogs. "I become part of their lives and they know I’m making their relatives more comfortable during the brief hour I’m there with the dogs."
When asked how long she sees herself continuing this positive role in the community, Corinna says simply, "I hope to be doing this as long as I have dogs.”