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Doctor visits are a whole lot better when Dr. Grizzly Bear is on call at GreenFields of Geneva senior living community.
The four-legged practitioner eases anxiety and depression, provides laughter, enhances communication, and more, all while charmingly wagging his tail. The four-year old mini-golden doodle belongs to Leslie Paquette, life services manager at GreenFields. He is actually named simply Grizzly Bear, but with the advanced training he required in order to become a certified therapy dog, earned the honorary title of doctor.
Leslie recalled that when Grizzly Bear was about two years old, she and her family recognized that he had an extremely sweet demeanor, and that people were drawn to him. “We thought he’d make a great therapy dog, visiting with people,” she said. He attended an intensive training program at WoofBeach in Geneva, four days weekly for many months. Afterward, Leslie met with the trainer regularly to make sure that Grizzly Bear was prepared for his certification exam. “The trainer would tell us what to practice and what specifically we should be working on,” Leslie said. In order to pass, he had to prove that he was easily controlled in a crowd, could walk through crowds of people, would sit and stay on command, could separate from Leslie without stress, and enjoyed meeting people and accepting their touch. “He passed with flying colors, becoming a certified therapy dog in November,” said Leslie.
Now, two days each week, he dons his special therapy dog vest and accompanies Leslie to work. “Residents look for him or ask for him a lot,” said Leslie. “He’s a nice morale boost for everyone. Just as many staff members want to see him as residents do. When people are with him, they’ll talk about their day and lovingly talk about their own pets. They’ll say, ‘I need therapy,’ and will just pet him and talk to him. He brings joy.”
Leslie will often call residents she knows love Grizzly Bear and ask if they’d like a visit. “We’ll sometimes go to Reflections Memory Care or Briarwood Skilled Nursing and visit the residents there,” she said, adding that she witnesses “residents verbalizing and vocalizing more when Grizzly Bear visits. People with low mobility reach to pet him or walk to my office to find him when they normally wouldn’t walk that far. He always brings smiles and laughter to people who were previously feeling down.”
Recently he ‘worked’ a kissing booth at GreenFields’ Valentine’s Day celebration.
When they get home, they remove Grizzly Bear’s special vest, and he’s a puppy, playing with his toys and his family. “He knows the difference,” said Leslie.
Wherever he is, Leslie reported, “He gets a lot of attention, a lot of love and ear scratches.”
Having a therapy dog, Leslie said, has been great fun and very satisfying. “I’m proud of him, and the response from my co-workers and residents has been great. It’s been worth all of the work in advanced training.”