A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher by Sue Halpern is a book that should interest just about everyone. If you do not currently have a relative in a nursing home, you may be wondering if living in a care facility is in your own future. The news that we hear about nursing homes is often bad: underfunded centers with insufficient staff, over-medicated patients, fire hazards, and patient abuse. It is a relief to read about a well-run facility with a caring professional staff that has a friendly dog visiting every Tuesday morning.
Pransky was a bit on the older side herself when Halpern began training her for certification as a therapy dog. Having never introduced Pransky to a leash, the author was uncertain her Labradoodle would pass the exam that would let them visit residents of a local nursing home. The story of how she passed is just the beginning of a string of sweet and sometimes sad stories. One of my favorites features Fran, a nursing home resident who starts a current events reading club (membership of one) who takes to Pransky but not the pesky preacher who wants to save her.
Even the best nursing homes are challenged keep the peace as much as meet the needs of all of its residents. Residents kept together are as bound to repel as to attract. The prospects of death are always lingering, as are loneliness and boredom. Visits by Pransky or other therapy animals gives some residents something for which to look forward. It is just one step to improving the lives of people unable to live on their own.
We are discusssing A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home at our church book group this week. I expect a lively discussion.
Halpern, Sue. A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher. Riverhead Books, 2013. 312p. ISBN 9781594487200.