The Comfort of a Dog at Respite
One of the first things you see when coming in the front door at Respite is a long brown couch in the hall. Usually, you’ll find a dog stretched across the cushions, taking an afternoon nap or nuzzling close to someone in need of a hug.
Howdy, a long-legged tan pooch owned by weekend hospitality coordinator, Mary Sullivan, is especially fond of the couch. It’s where he likes to lounge after making his rounds, checking in on folks before bedtime, or stopping by the kitchen for a snack.
“It’s comforting to see how many of our friends staying at Respite gravitate to Howdy on the couch,” explains Mary with a smile, “They’ll sit with him, sometimes in silence, other times in tears. They’ll talk to him, pouring out their feelings and frustrations, hugging him close. He stays there, looking at them with such devotion and attention, and often they’ll drift off to sleep, snuggled together.”
“Dogs are there in the moment,” Mary continues, “They don’t talk back; they simply listen. They don’t judge or offer advice. They have an innate way of understanding and responding to humans that reaches into one’s heart in profound ways. I’ve seen this happen so often at Respite. There are so many emotions a person has when arriving from the hospital; they might be agitated, scared, or feeling intimidated and lost. Often, they’re in pain. Howdy and the other dogs help us with the transition, offering kindness and comfort each step of the way.”
Petting a dog and being in their presence can lower one’s blood pressure and stress levels. It can elevate a person’s feeling of well-being and comfort, often allowing one to sleep better through the night. Having the dogs at Respite provides a sense of security and calmness that helps individuals rest and heal.
Respite program manager, Michael Platz, agrees. His two dogs, Grifton and Tyler, join him regularly on weekdays, “My boys are older and mellow. They seem to know instinctively who needs an extra nudge or bit of affection. They have a calmness about them that helps folks settle in and feel at home, knowing who to approach and letting others have their space. It’s really heartening to see a person come out of their shell because of a dog’s wet nose gently nudging their hand. It seems so simple, but it works. Perhaps it’s because it is so simple; unconditional love and no demands. Animals can work miracles.”
For more Faces & Stories from our Congregation, click here.