Walnut Hills Stories

Puppy Therapy Program Receives Innovation Award

Walnut Hills' puppy therapy program has received an Innovation Award from Greencroft Communities.

The program originated when team members gathered to discuss different ways to address loneliness among residents. The topic of pet therapy came up, and the team talked about the benefits of pets in residents’ lives. One of our Life Enrichment Directors, Patti Hixenbaugh, contacted a local pet store with the idea, and the regular puppy visits began.

Berlin Pet Shoppe graciously agreed to loan us puppies each Wednesday for residents at our Nursing Home and Assisted Living to enjoy.

Many residents enjoy holding and cuddling the puppies, but even those who do not engage by holding or petting the puppies do benefit from watching the puppies play in an enclosure. It’s not unusual to find the puppies joining Nursing Home residents for Bingo or sitting on residents’ laps during Assisted Living programs.

“The puppy therapy program brings the outside world into our residents’ home. The puppies bring giggles, smiles, kisses, and joy,” said Hixenbaugh.

Published studies have shown that repeated visits by therapy dogs decreased the heart rate and blood pressure of older adults.

The positive effects of the puppy visits at Walnut Hills have also included a reduction in anxiety in residents with dementia and getting a smile and response from a non-verbal resident.

In addition to the therapeutic benefits for our residents, the puppy therapy is a bonus for team members. In fact, one team member, Trent Arms, our Director of Culinary Services, has his very own puppy therapy success story. Trent suffered a heart attack several months ago, and during follow-up care, one of the nurses noticed something different.

“The nurse asked me what was special about Wednesdays, because my blood pressure was perfect on those days,” said Trent. “After I thought a while, I realized it was Puppy Day!”

We have team members who request to work on Wednesdays, and some of the office team “hijack” the puppies for a stretch of time and keep them at their desk while they work.

We are thankful for the partnership with Berlin Pet Shoppe and the positive impact the puppies are having on our residents and team members, and we appreciate the creativity and innovation behind the partnership.

If you would like more information on the puppy therapy program or the other life enriching activites at Walnut Hills, please call 330-893-3200.

More Stories