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Pet therapy a way of ‘touching hearts automatically’

Eula ‘Boots’ Smith (right) delights in Syd, a female Maltese, while Santa holds a Maltese puppy last Friday at Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Shirkey Hospice and Palliative Care utilizes pet therapy as a way to connect and socialize with patients and residents at the nursing home.

Eula ‘Boots’ Smith (right) delights in Syd, a female Maltese, while Santa holds a Maltese puppy last Friday at Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Shirkey Hospice and Palliative Care utilizes pet therapy as a way to connect and socialize with patients and residents at the nursing home.

By JoEllen Black/Richmond News

Santa wasn’t the only special guest last week at Shirkey Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

Syd, an outgoing Maltese female, brought a lot of smiles and a big laugh from Shirkey resident Eula “Boots” Smith as Syd was placed in her lap. Syd’s owner, Mary Noblitt, also had an additional surprise for Smith: a basket of Maltese puppies were given to her to see. Smith, a former dog owner, said she enjoyed the visit.

“You like being the center of attention?” she asked Syd, dressed with a pink bow atop her head with a matching sweater.

On that day, Sophie, a pug, also came in for a short visit. Some residents reached out to give her a pat and a scratch under her ears.

“Sophie loves everybody and is a happy dog,” said her owner Julie White.

She’s just beginning her new career as a pet therapy dog. Last Friday was her first encounter at Shirkey’s. Sophie and her owner had to go through a five-hour training session and pass a background check before they could become volunteers, according to Bill Purcell, Shirkey Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer coordinator.

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Shirkey Hospice and Palliative Care is looking for additional volunteers for its pet therapy area. Those who are interested can contact Purcell at 816-776-5403 ext. 25.

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