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Senior Services Introduces First Therapy Dog for Older Adults

There are times in life when you just want to spend time with a dog and forget the troubles around you. Now, patrons of Forsyth County’s Senior Services can do just that, as much as they want.

Hank is a six-month-old labradoodle therapy dog that is now interacting with residents through various Senior Services programs as well as just to provide a friendly hug to residents who just wanted to say hello.

Hank was adopted by the department late last year and is participating in ongoing therapy dog training as a part of the County’s Pups with Purpose program, a collaboration between the Forsyth County Animal Shelter and Sheriff’s Office that gives selected inmates at the County Jail an opportunity to provide care and obedience training to dogs provided by the shelter.

In November of 2021, the Forsyth County Pups with Purpose program introduced seven labradoodles that serve as the program’s first therapy dog class. After being trained by the program’s inmates, the dogs were adopted by handlers from various organizations, including Hunter Bennett with Senior Services.

Bennett says that receiving Hank, the department’s first therapy dog, could not have come at a better time for him personally, as he has recently lost a family dog.

“A lot of love had already been poured into this dog,” said Bennett. “The inmate who worked with him wrote me a personal letter about how amazing Hank is.”

According to Bennett, Hank’s main job is going to be administering love to everyone he meets. Hank is already with Bennett every day and will be exposed to all who come to Senior Services.

Senior Services’ Program Coordinator Courtney Fleming said Hank is just like another employee in the department.

“Our main goal is to expose Hank to all of the programs we offer,” said Fleming. “Dog therapy has shown to be very beneficial for memory stimulation and improvements to cognitive ability.”

Bennett said there have already been great moments between Hank and their patrons including one that shows how wonderful dog therapy can be.

“We have a gentleman patron who has early stage Alzheimer’s,” said Bennett. “He looked at Hank and there was a clarity in his eyes as he said, ‘My grandfather had a dog just like this.’ What value can be put on remembering a moment in time like that?”

As Hank finishes his training, he will soon be a certified Canine Good Citizen and official therapy dog. Everyone at Senior Services can’t wait to see all that Hank will do for their patrons in the new year and beyond!

Want to meet Hank and learn more about Forsyth County Services? Be sure to visit Senior Services online by clicking here. See more photos of Hank here.

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