This year, the ‘“dog days of summer” means something a little bit different at the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre.
The excitement in the room was palpable as dozens of the centre’s members enjoyed a visit by some four-legged friends courtesy of the St. John Ambulance therapy dog program and BC Guide Dogs on Aug. 10.
Laura Saker, social director with the Kennedy House Seniors Society (the volunteer-based group that runs the centre), said the event was intended to get seniors out of the heat and into the air-conditioned centre.
“Dog Days was set up because August is the hottest time of the year and we have a lot of seniors here who live in apartment buildings that are sweltering hot,” Saker said. “We want them in this building [and] we want them hydrated, so the idea was we had the room free, let’s set up something [and] bring them in.”
Saker said the event was part of an ongoing effort to shake things up at the centre and encourage seniors to come in and not only beat the heat, but interact and socialize.
Members enjoy some canine company during Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre's Dog Days of Summer event. Image credit: James Smith
“We’re trying to do things a little bit different. We’re trying to get out of the normal you have a tea party or something like that,” she said. “We’ve had two or three different social events where we haven’t brought in entertainment — we’ve just done activities at the table — because it’s amazing how they start to communicate with each other. They meet people they see everyday, the ones who come in here. They have fun and that’s what it’s about.”
Saker said the visit from the dogs did just that.
“A lot of them had dogs [but] can’t have dogs anymore. They love getting their hands on them, so this was the perfect opportunity to do that,” she said.
Susie Ward of BC Guide Dogs, who was accompanied by a five-month-old black Labrador retriever named Pebbles, said events like this are an important part of training for both the dogs and their handlers.
“We socialize them as much as possible, so I really like to be out to as many events as I can get the dogs out to,” Ward said. “They’re just so good for us and so good for the dogs. It’s nice for the puppy trainers to be able to feel comfortable in situations like this as well. All that stuff goes right down this leash to the dog; if you are nervous, your dog’s going to be nervous as well.”
Gerry Redmond is a member of the centre and the co-facilitator for the therapy dog program at St. John Ambulance’s Surrey/Delta/Langley branch. She said the unconditional love that dogs like her eight-year-old Japanese chin/shih tzu-cross Bailey (full name Bailey Anderson Cooper Nelson Redmond) provide adds a much-needed dose of positivity to a lot of people’s lives.
“Many people in care homes have had dogs as younger people and have had to maybe give up a dog when they’ve had to move into a care home. It’s devastating. It’s like losing part of your family,” Redmond said. “So when they see the dogs come in, it just gives them such a boost. I’ve had people say, ‘it makes my day,’ and I think you could ask any one of our handlers and we would all say the same thing.”
St John Ambulance therapy dog Bleu, a seven-year-old springer spaniel, enjoys a well-deserved rest at her handler Monique van Leeuwen's feet after the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre's Dog Days of Summer event. Image credit: James Smith
As for the Dog Days of Summer event, Saker said it was a big success. Although there are currently no plans to bring the dogs back before next summer, that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic members from enquiring.
“People keep asking, ‘when are the dogs coming back?’” Saker said.