Therapy dogs brighten days of Masonic Village residents in Aleppo
The room was quiet, but it was obvious the residents were getting antsy.
From their wheelchairs, they sat — focused on the hallway, watching for signs of their arrival. A few softly asked aloud, “Where are the dogs?”
When they finally got a glimpse of Gus and Oliver, the mood turned lighter.
“They just light up,” said Megan Zulauf, a music therapist who helps with therapeutic recreation at Masonic Village at Sewickley.
Though the program is not new, Zulauf said it has blossomed over the past year. Now, a group of about eight area volunteers take turns during the week bringing their certified therapy dogs to brighten the days of many of the residents of the Aleppo facility's Sturgeon Health Care Center.
Zulauf smiled as she glanced around the room at a handful of residents who were visiting with Gus and Oliver and chatting with the golden retrievers' Sewickley owners, Terry Rafalko and daughter Caylee. After a while, Lucas, a yellow labrador retriever, and Kira, another golden retriever — along with owners Diane Viall of Sewickley and Stephanie O'Kane of Edgeworth, respectively — joined them.
“They can never get enough of seeing the dogs. They bring out socialization and good memories,” Zulauf said.
Many of the residents had furry friends of their own before moving to Masonic Village.
Rita Meyer, a former dance instructor, had a dog named Dancer who she brought to the studio each day because she didn't want to leave it by itself throughout the day.
When her sister got home from work, she would call a taxi to drive Dancer home.
Another resident, Jim Phipps, said he's been an animal lover all of his life. He keeps a bulletin board of his “grand dogs” and “grand cats” in his room at Masonic Village. He said he enjoys spending time with the dogs that stop by.
Zulauf said she has seen the difference the dogs have made in some of the residents.
One man, who she said she hadn't heard speak more than a few words here and there, would talk to the dogs in full sentences.
“There's something special about an animal that is so loving. I think just the act of petting calms and brings joy,” Zulauf said.
O'Kane said she began bringing Kira to Masonic Village because she thought the animal would “really do well at it,” she said. She was inspired by people like the Rafalkos and has been making visits since January.
Terry Rafalko said she loves spending time and bringing her dogs to visit the residents.
“I love making new friends here. (The program) makes people so happy,” she said.
Kristina Serafini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1405 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bell Acres police investigate attempted child luring
- No average jack-o-lantern will do for skilled pumpkin carvers
- Hoeys Run project holding up Sewickley theater project
- Departing Sewickley couple wants to leave seeds of hope behind
- Howard Hanna to raze damaged Sewickley office building, rebuild
- Quaker Valley board aims to clarify policies on communication, who can drive students
- Halloween activities scheduled around the Sewickley Valley
- Koch: Age gracefully? Nope — gonna fight it every step of the way