This Dog Is Helping With Alzheimer’s: Richard’s Story

We heard from Richard, who told us about borrowing a dog for his Nan, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

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Why did you first choose to borrow a dog, and how did you go about doing so?

I work in the care industry, so have read a lot about the positive effects that animals can have on people with dementia. I then heard about Borrow My Doggy, a service in the UK where you can borrow a dog from a local owner. Owning a dog would be too much responsibility on top of caring for my grandparents, so this is the perfect setup. The dog is a 9-month-old dachshund puppy called Orla, who is owned by a local lady called Ann.

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How often does your Nan borrow a dog and what does a typical interaction with the dog involve?

She comes for a few hours every Tuesday and Thursday. When she gets more settled, we’ll have her perhaps for longer periods. While it’s great for my Nan, we also want to make sure Orla is completely calm and feels relaxed in our home.

When Nan & Orla are together, they play with toys, nap together, tickle and cuddle.

What sort of effects did you see as a result of the interaction between your Nan and the dog?

One of the big issues with her Alzheimer’s is she doesn’t handle pain very well. She grizzles and cries like a baby over regular aches and pains. A big benefit of Orla coming over is it completely distracts her, any crying or moaning stops and she just smiles and plays. Orla loves the constant attention my Nan gives her and Nan loves playing with her. It’s the perfect combination.

What has your overall experience been of borrowing a dog been like, and what advice would you have for others struggling to look after loved ones suffering from health issues such as Alzheimer’s?

Borrowing a dog has been wonderful, not only for Nan but for the owner too. Orla is still a puppy, so her owner is keen for her to meet lots of people and have lots of experiences.

Interaction with animals is well documented therapy for people with dementia. While Orla isn’t specifically a therapy dog, she just enjoys playtime with my Nan. It’s been wonderful to see the responses on social media, so I hope this story encourages more people to seek out similar experiences for their loved ones with dementia. Just start slowly with a short introduction visit for both your loved one and the dog’s benefit, and then go from there.

After sharing a tweet about his nan and Orla, Richard received numerous positive responses on social media, with people sending him their experiences of dogs helping their loved ones. His Nan even found fame when she featured in a Buzzfeed article!

If you have a story of how being with a dog improved your/your loved one’s happiness, we’d love to hear it! Email us, tweet to us, send in your stories and photos! We want to raise awareness of the ways that bringing people and dogs together can combat loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Love Rupert the Westie.



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Written by Elena Holmes

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