Story and Photos by Lisa Carolin
Close to 40 people came to meet therapy dogs Bella and Nugget recently at the Chelsea Senior Center’s Connections Memory Café, a monthly get-together for dementia patients and their caregivers.
Barb and Paul Marshall own the therapy dogs, who were enthusiastically welcomed by Lisa Klinkman, the senior center’s Senior Wellness Coordinator and Katie Garvey, the senior center’s newly hired Respite Care Coordinator.
“Dogs have an uncanny ability to know when someone does not feel well or just needs some support, and they know how to provide just what is needed,” said Barb Marshall.
Visitors to the Memory Café received a warm welcome from the Marshalls and in turn greeted Bella and Nugget with the same warmth. The dogs worked the crowd and created a contagious sort of joy.
The specific goals of bringing the therapy dogs to the Memory Café included bringing back positive memories of pets, sharing the dogs’ unconditional love, and the experience of petting the dogs, which can lower stress levels and blood pressure.
“We have received immeasurable satisfaction by sharing our amazing dogs,” said Barb Marshall. “We have seen first-hand the positive effects our therapy dogs have had on everyone every time we make a visit, and we love to share this happiness with as many people of all ages as we can.”
Beginning in April, the Connections Memory Café will be held on the first Wednesday of the month at the senior center and offer lunch, games, and activities for individuals living with cognitive changes and mild memory loss along with their caregivers.