Family and friends aren’t the only visitors re-entering a Naples, FL, life plan community. Therapy dogs also are resuming their rounds with assisted living residents.

Golden PAWS Assistance Dogs, a Naples-based nonprofit organization, have been part of the Vi at Bentley Village community for more than 12 years, providing pet therapy to residents and, specifically, veterans, in the community’s assisted living and skilled nursing areas. The dogs are trained to provide psychological and physical comfort, in addition to companionship, Assisted Living Director Laura Kendrick told McKnight’s Senior Living.

The visits stopped during the pandemic. But Kendrick said the community has reached a point in its phased reopening plans to be able to conduct small-group programs. 

“We waited to reinstate this program until after our residents received their COVID-19 vaccinations for the additional protections immunization provides,” she said.

Golden PAWS canines visit the campus once a month. The program includes groups of 10 residents, who are required to wear face masks, adhere to social distancing and conduct frequent hand hygiene. Kendrick said the program space is sanitized in between each program to keep everyone safe.

“It is different conducting small-group programs during the pandemic, but the value that the Golden PAWS program brings to our residents is immeasurable,” Kendrick said. “Anyone who has loved a dog knows the joy they bring.”

Golden PAWS specially breeds and trains Golden Retriever puppies for two years to aid with mobility assistance and other physical needs. The organization provides community outreach programming in Southwest Florida.

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