Take a look at the smiles in the resident activity area and you'll know that it's a special afternoon at the local care center. It's visit day for Golden Retriever and therapy dog 'Jack,' who wears holiday-themed costumes for his monthly visit at Grundy County Memorial Hospital Long Term Care.
A love for dogs and the people he helps care for at the Long Term Care unit inspired nurse Brian Swartz to train his Golden Retriever for regular visits to the nursing home. Jack, who is five or six years old, was adopted by Swartz two years ago, and the experienced dog owner recognized that the dog's temperament was perfect for the care center setting.
"Jack's demeanor is ideal for visiting the residents of Long Term Care," remarks Swartz, who averages one visit per month with his pet. "He is calm and relaxed, and loves the attention he receives from the people he visits." Care center residents can opt to interact with Jack in a group activity, or one-on-one if a private visit with the pet is desired. "Jack has his head on someone's lap in no time," says Swartz.
Brian Swartz and Golden Retriever ‘Jack’ during a recent visit with residents of Grundy County Memorial Hospital Long Term Care.
The inspiration for dressing Jack in various costumes for his visits originated with retired teacher Janey Swartz, who is Brian's mom. She enjoys finding the right accessories for the dog to depict holidays and special occasions, from Christmas, to Easter, to St. Patrick's Day. "The costumes took a little adapting, but now Jack loves the attention they bring," says Swartz.
The joy the visits bring to residents serves as motivation for Swartz, who lives in Marshalltown, to bring Jack to the Long Term Care unit regularly when he's not working on the unit. "My dogs bring me a lot of joy, and it's great to be able to share that with the residents here," says Swartz. "There's something naturally therapeutic about the company of a dog, and everyone deserves the chance to experience it."
Jack's next visit to Long Term Care is on the afternoon of April 22 for a special activity.