Every Saturday at The Peninsula, an assisted living and memory support community in Hollywood, residents gather for the arrival of a special guest: JR the therapy dog.
Brought to the community by his owner and handler Sue Travis, the golden retriever is welcomed by everyone from the minute she arrives in her convertible with JR in the back seat. With a proud wag of his tail, JR seems happy to visit the community, saying hello to everyone.
Primarily JR’s visit is in The Garden, the memory support wing within The Peninsula.
JR seems to delight in showing residents his tricks as much as they enjoy being his audience. He plays “find the treat” with Sue as she tries to trick him, hiding a treat in her fists.
“My mom has Alzheimer’s and told me about women who bought her dog to visit the residents at a community where she lives in Michigan. I thought ‘why I can’t do that’,” explained Sue.
She started bringing her dog Junior to The Peninsula. Both she and Junior enjoyed these visits. When he passed away, she found another dog from a Golden Retriever rescue organization.
“He was skinny and had been abused,” she explained. Her patience training him as a therapy service dog has paid off. He seems to love interacting with residents. In January he’ll be officially certified as a therapy dog by the Human Society so he’s in training until then.
“It’s the happiest time of the week,” said Carol Mittleman, a Peninsula resident.
JR eats treats from residents’ hands and loves to play fetch when residents throw his ball. He seems to know which residents enjoy petting him and who will reward him with cookies. He evens visits residents’ room if they are unable to join the group.
During JR’s visit, his presence evoked memories of family dogs residents had as children.
At the end of the hour, JR said his goodbyes, putting his leash in his mouth, and he and Sue headed home. His visit left many smiles until next week.