Voted Best Senior Care Community in Will County

Four-legged friend brings joy and warm memories to seniors

Maya the therapy dog and a senior from the Timbers of Shorewood

The residents of the Timbers of Shorewood welcome a special visitor every other week. The guest is a therapy dog named Maya, a mixed breed (a little bit of everything), accompanied by her owner Mary Mullin of Plainfield.

As the sweet pooch cuddles up for some delicious petting, the resident receives emotional connection, warm memories of a former pet, and a great deal of comfort.

“Maya makes a big difference for the seniors, and they adore her,” Mullin said. “I love seeing the residents’ smiles and joy as they interact with her. My mom and dad lived at the Timbers before they passed, and this is a way I can give back the many kindnesses the staff gave them.”

Therapy dogs help live a happy, productive life by filling needs. They provide comfort in a crisis, a hospital, a retirement community — anywhere people could use love from a four-legged friend. In addition, a therapy dog can lessen pain, stress, sadness, and fatigue.

With training, every friendly breed of dog might become a therapy dog. Most therapy dogs are golden retrievers, standard poodles, St. Bernard’s, and Labrador retrievers, and even mixed breeds like Maya.

“We look forward to Maya’s visits,” said Amy Odell, director of activities at the Timbers. “Seeing the residents waiting for Maya to arrive is so heartwarming. They have many questions about the dog and her training. Mary (Mullin) is great at answering all questions, and Maya’s sweet and gently nature has all of us wanting her attention.”

Before being recognized as therapy dogs, canines are trained and monitored for their sensitivity to stresses such as loud noises, being suddenly grasped, or even equipment such as canes or wheelchairs.

Maya is certified through Therapy Dogs International (TDI). To belong to TDI, all dogs are rated by a Certified TDI Evaluator. A dog must be at least one year of age and have a sound temperament. Each dog is assessed for suitability, and the test also includes the evaluation of the dog’s behavior around people.

From the TDI website: “Often, older adults are reminded of dogs they have had in the past, and the joyful memories are clear to everyone involved. As years go by, elders often experience feelings of loneliness and insecurity, especially because they are not involved in as many activities as they were in the past.”

While pet therapy helps most people, it may not be appropriate for everybody. Certain people are sometimes allergic to a dog’s fur, and some people may fear or be uncomfortable around animals.

Maya, however, has passed all tests with excellence, and everyone at the Timbers agrees she is a wonderful therapy dog.

The Timbers of Shorewood Senior Living is a rental retirement community that provides senior independent living and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Residents whose needs may change are able to stay in the same place and receive appropriate and compassionate care. Furnished apartments are also available for short-term stays.

For more information call 815-609-0669.