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Rufus Finds His Ideal Job

by Karen Steinrock, reprinted from 1Q 2003 Newf Tide

For the past seven years, my Newf Rufus has spent Sundays brightening the lives of patients, both young and old at nursing homes, hospitals and senior centers. If you've ever felt the exhilaration of wining in the breed ring or earning a working titles, multiply that by ten when you see your Newfoundland "connect" with an otherwise uncommunicative patient.

rufus and fern

Rufus visits with Helen, who founded the largest no-kill shelter in the area

Medical research proves that the simple act of petting a dog lower blood pressure, eases stress and provides other health benefits. Stroking a Newfie takes it to a different level. I have witnessed reactions of patients to other breeds and know Newfs offer their own unique brand of emotional support.

rufus and fern

Rufus made friends with Fern-who always looked forward to his visits.

The somewhat disarming sight of a Newfie lumbering down the hall or poking his head out of an elevator stimulates lively conversation between patients and staff, as well as visiting relatives who can't always find the right words. The sheer sight of Rufus approaching has also calmed many a crying episode.
Our involvement in pet therapy all started Christmas Day 1995, when a friend asked if I could bring my Newfie in to help cheer up nursing home patients she knew would have no visitors that day. I dressed Rufus up in a Santa hat and a jingle bell collar and off we went. For two hours I watched as Rufus sought out patients most in need of comforting- elevating spirits all over the hospital- staff included. It was clear the dog had found his "job".

rufus3

"You're so beautiful!" this man would exclaim every time Rufus entered his room. He kept a photograph of Rufus next to his bed.

 

Rufus was a great comfort to my mother when she became ill and ultimately passed away in 1997. I'd bring him to the hospital to see her twice a week, and she would present me with a list of patients Rufus needed to visit. Scheduling his "appointments" turned out to be therapy for her. She was so proud of her hairy "grandson." A month before she passed, mother made me promise to continue sharing Rufus with people in need. At her funeral, Rufus stood by me as I delivered the eulogy. On that day he was therapy for me.

Read about Rufus' Retirement Bash

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