Christmas dog visits nursing home

HOWLAND – Born on Christmas in 1998, Buddy spends his time each month visiting the residents of Shepherd of the Valley Nursing Home in Howland.

Buddy’s owner, Matthew Stalnaker of Braceville, said this will likely be the schnauzer’s last visit to the nursing home due to declining health.

“He has been a great companion and the residents here love to see him,” Stalnaker said.

Sandy Patti of Windham, who accompanies her son and the dogs twice a month to the nursing home, said Buddy and her son’s other dogs have almost been like therapy for the residents.

“I was in a bad accident in 2002, which left me partially paralyzed. All I wanted was to be home with my dogs. They let me bring my dogs in when I was in recovery,” Stalnaker said.

Stalnaker has four dogs – Buddy; Max, a schnauzer mix; an Australian shepherd; and a miniature schnauzer.

“I bring the dogs here to the nursing home just as I wished I could see them when I was in the hospital,” he said.

Patti plays the piano for the residents at the nursing home while Stalnaker has the dogs visit the residents.

“This really brings the residents out when they hear the music or the dogs,” Stalnaker said.

The dogs often go from room to room.

“The people love the dogs. One woman who is unable to speak broke down in tears when she saw the dogs,” Stalnaker said.

Stalnaker said the residents show so much emotion when visiting the dogs.

Patti said when her son was in the hospital and then in rehab, his dogs missed him.

“The dogs missed him. They knew something was different and that he was in pain and stayed away from him,” Patti said.

“My biggest reason for coming here is the people who have animals at home and don’t have them anymore love seeing them. Seeing my dogs brings out so many memories for them,” said Stalnaker, who has brought the dogs for the past four years.

Patti and Stalnaker said some residents share memories of their pets.

“It’s nice for the residents to be able to share their memories. Some residents become emotional,” he said.

The residents like smaller dogs, he said.