Therapy dog a 'pawsitive' influence at Iowa center


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GARNER, Iowa (AP) — Gracie, a 5-year-old English Springer Spaniel, is a "pawsitive" influence on the residents and staff at Concord Care Center in Garner.

She has been working as a therapy dog at the care center since July, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported (http://bit.ly/1vxXfUT ).

"It seems likes residents really enjoy having pets and children in the facility," said Kristy Priebe, Concord marketing coordinator.

"We always say Gracie doesn't judge. Gracie is always happy. Gracie is happy to see them all the time," she said. "It's another something that can brighten their day."

Gracie was well-known to care center residents and staff.

You see, Gracie belongs to Maureen Nedved of Garner, whose mother, Shirley Haes, was a resident at the care center. Maureen brought Gracie along whenever she visited her mother.

Haes died in June.

About a month after Haes' death, Concord's Activities Coordinator Marline Lewerke contacted Nedved and asked if she'd be interested in letting Gracie come to the facility as a therapy dog. The answer was an enthusiastic yes.

"I pick Gracie up in the morning at 8:30 a.m., then her owner Maureen Nedved picks her up at 4:30 p.m. and takes her home," Lewerke said.

Gracie comes to the care center Monday through Friday.

Lewerke said it couldn't have worked out any better.

Gracie, with Lewerke at her side, strolls up and down the hallways, stopping for the occasional pat on the head, tummy rub or a treat. Gracie is quiet and patient, and seems to match her gait to a resident who is moving a little slowly.

"She loves people," Lewerke said. "She absolutely loves people as you can see right there. She loves to be petted. She loves attention and she brings such a calm to people. People can be upset about something or not feeling well and once they see Gracie that just leaves.

"Dogs have this unconditional love. They don't care what you look like. They don't care what you say. They don't care if you're grumpy," Lewerke said.

Concord resident Mary Jane Barz is especially fond of Gracie.

"She's such a friendly dog. I had a dog when I was a little girl and my mother let the dog come in and sleep behind the cook stove," Barz said.

Barz gets Gracie to sit and beg for a treat. Gracie gives Lewerke a paw in exchange for a tasty morsel.

She said Gracie may remind residents of the dogs that they had before moving to the care center.

"They may not even remember their name. A lot of the people here had outside dogs so an inside dog is something that they have to get used to," Lewerke said.

"The presence of animals can boost the survival rate of people and having Gracie here just supports Concord's philosophy that people come here to live, she said. "Gracie is a big factor in that."

___

Information from: Globe Gazette, http://www.globegazette.com/

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Mason City Globe Gazette

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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