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Dog Licks Loneliness at Long-Term Care Facility

August 15, 2011

For years, researchers have suspected that pet ownership may lower blood pressure and stress levels and promote a more active lifestyle. In the clinical setting, researchers nationwide are just beginning to realize potential benefits of bringing specially trained animals into hospitals and nursing homes. Riderwood, a retirement community in Silver Spring, MD, is putting these suggested findings to the test. The Renaissance Gardens, an assisted living/skilled nursing facility located within Riderwood, welcomed a new resident in August—an 8-year-old beagle named Ginger. The dog was certified through the Pets on Wheels program (, a Baltimore-based volunteer organization that provides animal visits to nursing homes, assisted living communities, and facilities for the physically and mentally challenged, including those with impaired cognitive abilities (ie, Alzheimer’s disease). According to Ginger’s owner, Karen Spicer, a community resources coordinator at Riderwood, the beagle is sweet, compliant, and obedient. She said that the dog has already put smiles on the faces of residents and staff and has been building community bonds. “She loves to tell people that they are great,” Ms. Spicer said in a press release. “One guy asked what her name is,” she added. “After I replied, ‘Ginger,’ he quipped, ‘She looks more like a Maryanne to me.’  We had a good laugh from that.”

Interested in finding a pet visitation program to come to your long-term care facility? Rochelle Lesser, a golden retriever enthusiast, maintains a comprehensive nationwide group listing of pet visitation programs arranged by state at

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