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Elderly People

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Scientific studies have shown that pets can help their owners live longer. And they certainly can provide companionship and affection to those who are lonely. Matching pets that need a home with people who need a friend has become a mission for one veterinarian. She has no doubt that it’s a good match. Reed Galin has the story.

 
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(Locator: Foley, Ala.)

Nat: child plays piano

At 92, Louise Greenwald (green wall) still enjoys teaching piano. But the recent death of her second husband left a big gap in her life.

Louise Greenwald/Paired with new pet: “It’s been quite empty.”

Nat: dog barking

Then along came a new companion – a little Chihuahua named Honey.

Louise Greenwald/Paired with new pet: “He loves me and I love him.”

Honey was a gift from the Mutt Ministry at Jubilee Shores United Methodist Church in Fairhope, Alabama.

Louise Greenwald/Paired with new pet: “This is a real blessing. Company, lots of love, and I can cook for him.”

Nat/Vet holds dog: “You’re so scared.”

Church member and veterinarian Beth Taylor started the ministry to match shelter animals that might otherwise be euthanized with people who need special companions.

Dr. Beth Taylor/Veterinarian: “Even the simple act of holding a dog can lower blood pressure or lower your heart rate.”

Taylor donates her own time and talents to spay and neuter the animals. She’ll even provide lifetime care, and church members help with food donations.

Dr. Beth Taylor/Veterinarian: “It gives people a purpose and it reminds them that God hasn’t forgotten them.”

But the Mutt Ministry isn’t just for mutts. Clarabelle the cat lives in a nursing home as a companion to 60 residents.

Margaret Thompson/Nursing Home Resident: “I get so lonesome. But when I see Clarabelle, I get happy again.”

Jubilee church members also take other pets to visit nursing homes.

Nat/Lady nuzzles dog: “Give me some sugar.”

Taylor says pets and those who have suffered loss are a match made in heaven.

Dr. Beth Taylor/Veterinarian: “Animals rarely disappoint us. They’re always there to love us, no matter what.”

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The Mutt Ministry started three years ago and places about 20 pets in new homes every year. Dr. Taylor says some nursing homes were at first reluctant to let pets inside. But she says some are now welcoming pets after seeing the reactions from residents.

You can find out more about the Mutt Ministry by contacting Dr. Taylor at etmomvet@gulftel.com or calling the church at 251-928-9133.

Dogs were first used as companions for patients in 1919. After that, animals were used at an Army Air Corps hospital during World War II. Patients recovering from the war experience were encouraged to work with horses, cattle and poultry at the hospital’s farm. During the 1970s, studies were done about animals interacting with children and senior citizens.

Also, see Mutt Ministry puts 'shining light' in lives of elderly.