Are you wondering if you should bring your little dog for a visit at Arthur’s? Pet visits are just as welcome as human visits. It’s hard to say how the clients will respond to any given animal. But animals and pets are almost always a welcome presence. They liven up the room with their antics, they bring a dose of cuteness and carefree fun to the day, and many clients enjoy a chance to snuggle and dote on something cute and furry.

The very presence of a pet can reduce the effects of dementia, lowering feeling of anxiety, agitation, irritability, depression and loneliness, according to research cited by Bright Focus. Because pets are friendly, curious and non-threatening, this makes the patient feel more at ease with themselves so they open up.

Read these tips and anecdotes to help you plan your visit.

Be flexible

Follow your loved one’s lead. Some clients want to move in for a cuddle. As for others who do not want a pet on their lap, they will certainly be watching your animal companion explore and play. When a dog chases a ball or snuffles around the room, that can be interesting!

Consider the pet

Certainly, you’ll want to weigh what your pet can and can’t handle. Some animals get rather stressed in new settings, and there may not be enough time in the visit for your pet to acclimate and enjoy the interaction. If that describes your pet, the kindest thing for the pet and clients is to keep them home.

Should former pets visit?

Some of our clients had pets at home before coming to stay at Arthur’s. If you’re wondering if bringing their dog to visit would make them happy or cause agitation and upset, the answer to that is, it depends. But we’d say it’s worth trying. For example, one client enjoyed his daily visits from his wife and their tiny dog, Bear. When they weren’t around, he always kept the photo of Bear with him. Eventually, he lost his ability to speak, but he would still gaze at Bear’s picture. That was our cue to tell him stories about his beloved pet.

[For more, read How to show a loved one with dementia they’re still needed]

Can I bring a chicken?

Sometimes, we get less traditional animal visitors at Arthur’s. Once we had a duck, which the clients enjoyed. And one favorite repeat guest was Pom-Pom, a gorgeous Silkie Chicken. She wore a diaper and was very well-behaved, standing quietly wherever she was placed so the clients could ooh and ahh over her. Pom-Pom would go on to adopt and raise many chicks, which were also brought to Arthur’s, delighting the staff and the clients.

No pets? No problem!

If you don’t have a pet to bring, there are other ways to connect clients to animals. One of our clients loved watching the squirrels, so his daughter set up several clever squirrel feeders. He sat at the window, watching their antics and acrobatics as they worked to figure out how to get to the delicious food. This set-up drew the attention of the live-in supervisor’s pet dog, and the two would watch the squirrels together with great interest and enjoyment. After the excitement passed, the dog would climb up on his lap for a nap. Their mutual love of squirrel-watching sparked a close friendship.

Do you have a four-legged friend that enjoys meeting new people? Talk to us about a future visit! Animals are a lot of fun for the clients and almost always bring a smile to their faces.

Learn more about how we provide specialized care in our series “Insights from Arthur’s” featuring educational videos from Arthur’s Director of Development and Senior Care Consultant Deb Nygaard.