After living at Robison Jewish Health Center for two years, Bob Freedman eagerly awaits his weekly visit from “sweet and wonderful” Emma, who always greets him with a warm kiss.
No, Emma is not his wife or girlfriend – Emma is a 3-year-old white Boxer registered as a Pet Partner with the Delta Society.
“She makes my day,” says Freedman. He calls Emma’s visits “one of the great pleasures that I have.”
Scores of animals regularly visit residents of RJHC and Rose Schnitzer Manor at Cedar Sinai Park. Some, like Emma and her owner Gail Halladay, are Delta Society registered Pet Partners (see box). Others belong to CSP employees or families of residents. About once a quarter, residents are visited by a llama from Mountain Peaks Therapy Llamas, certified through DoveLewis and registered with the Delta Society.
RJHC Activities Coordinator Bonny Chipman says that when any of the animals visit, she can see residents form an instant connection with the animal. She says for those with anxiety, an animal is calming; for former pet owners, a pet’s visit brings a sense of home.
Halladay says she has seen both of those reactions as well as plenty of smiles during her visits. In addition to their weekly visits to Robison, she and Emma also participate in a reading program where children read stories to Emma.
“It is an incredible feeling to know that my passion (for dogs) can make so many people of all different ages so happy,” says Halladay. “There are several individuals at the Robison home who have had to leave their pets behind, or they have very few visitors. Emma’s visits allow them to touch and receive kisses. Some of the residents are so happy that it brings me incredible joy.”
Freedman says he has had many dogs during his life and that Emma “always has an open pass” to come into his room.
“I know that others enjoy her, but Bob is very verbal about his feelings for our visits,” says Halladay. “The distraction and warmth that Emma provides is what he had with his own dog.”
CSP is a very dog friendly campus, according to Chipman, who brings her own 10-pound Shih Tzu-terrier Ethel to the office two days a week. She said residents will stop by to visit Ethel and are disappointed if she isn’t there.
Other regular visitors are Robison Sisterhood member Evelyn Freidman who brings her dog Bitsy in each week and volunteer Adrienne Broddel, who brings her two Elk Hounds for weekly visits.
“It’s very nice to have dogs of all sizes and shapes and breeds here with their owners or visiting,” says CSP Community Program Director Kathy Tipsord. “If someone needs a hug, we can scoop up a staff member’s pet and go to that person and spend some time with them.”
“People talk about how comforting animals are,” says Tipsord. “But I think even more important is that animals are there in the moment with people, they accept the person and are open to whoever they are and whatever their needs are.”
“It’s very hard in this busy world to find humans who are in the moment and present. Animals have that capacity,” says Tipsord.
In a setting where touch is often purely to provide care, giving and receiving a nurturing touch is especially comforting, she adds.
Delta Society is a human-services organization dedicated to improving people’s health and well-being… through positive interactions with animals.
• Delta Society’s Pet Partners program trains volunteers and screens volunteers and their pets for visiting animal
programs in hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, schools and other facilities.
• More than one million people each year benefit from the 10,000+ registered Delta Society Pet Partners’ work.