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A dose of puppy love: Nursing home dog proves therapeutic to residents, visitors

When Lucky walks into a room, she changes the atmosphere.

With the black pup around, Perham Memorial Home is a little more relaxed and comfortable - it's a little more like home.

"Lucky is a major part of this organization," said Dorothy Weickert, whose husband resides at the nursing home. "She makes it like home."

Lucky isn't all too different from any other family dog. She saunters around the nursing home, visiting residents and lounging in the sun, accepting treats and pats on the back whenever offered.

"She has a run of this facility," said Karen Laughlin, activities director.

But it wasn't always like that.

Lucky's life nearly came to a halt in 2000 when she was found and taken into a local veterinarian's clinic. The abandoned dog was in danger of being put down, until the nursing home stepped in and took her in as the facility pet - a role she seems to fit into just fine.

Her methods of communication with residents are fairly simple. When she wants attention, she rolls on her back and stares with her puppy dog eyes. When she wants to get to her outdoor play area, she waits by the door until someone comes along.

While Lucky does inspire a few smiles throughout the day, her benefits to the residents reach much deeper, especially among those who have had dogs throughout their lives.

It's not uncommon to find Lucky comforting a resident, especially in a storm, when she requires a little extra comfort, too, Laughlin said.

Some residents make it a point every day to find the pup and share some treats.

"I just love that dog," Weickert said while taking the time to visit Lucky on her way out the door.

Others know that when their families visit, there will be an extra guest hanging around.

Lucky has a knack for small children, which is a good thing considering elementary students and grandchildren of residents regularly visit the nursing home.

"Residents, staff and families all look out for her," Laughlin said.

In turn, Lucky is there for them, providing comfort and an extra dose of puppy love, which, for some, is just the medicine they might need.