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5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving and awe-inspiring, 31 May 2013
By 
Niki Collins-queen, Author "author" (Forsyth, Georgia USA) - See all my reviews
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"A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home" is the beautiful, wise, heart-warming story about Sue Halpern, the author, and Pransky her amazing 10-year-old Labradoodle dog's work at a Vermont County nursing home. As a certified therapy dog team they made weekly visits with the many courageous and disheartened nursing home residence.
With Pransky at her side and sometimes in the lead Sue learned how to get out of her comfort zone and became less reticent. She learned to accept the residence as they are and not make distinctions based on incapacities or physical appearance.
The seven chapters (restraint, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope, love and charity) demonstrate how Pransky a faithful, charitable, loving and mostly prudent mutt taught Sue about humanity, compassion and the true meaning of acceptance. Through Pransky Sue came to see how modern nursing homes can be incubators of virtue. A place where Pransky brightened the lives of people in the twilight of their years. A place where the distinction between giving and receiving is often blurry.
Sue cites studies that back up her observations. In one study, researchers measured the anxiety levels of 230 hospitalized psychiatric patients after routine therapy sessions. Patients who had animal-assisted therapy sessions had greater "statistically significant reductions" than the patients who had routine therapy sessions. Also patients who were visited by therapy dogs after undergoing a complete joint replacement required half as much pain medication as the regular patients. Scientists also found people with good interpersonal relationships have elevated levels of oxytocin (also known as the love hormone). Studies show an increase in oxytocin and a decrease in anxiety when petting or looking at a dog. Sue's observation that the nursing home residence and staff tacked in Pransky's direction to touch her like a talisman seemed to confirm this.
She said Pransky appeared to have love to spare. She gave people the the opportunity to love back, to express affection, to forget their afflictions, and be their essential, authentic, original loving selves.
Pransky taught her to meet people exactly where they were (disabled, jolly, mute, demented, frail, lonely, tired or chatty) without a moment's hesitation. She even came to believe Pransky knew when a person lay dying. Pransky would jumped up and provided the comfort of her body - its heft, warmth and softness - at the moment when the person was most alone. Pransky brought a lightness and easiness to her work that seemed to expand outward and encompass almost everyone she encountered.
Sue's true to life tales about and the love, loyalty and the healing power of Pransky are profoundly deep and awe-inspiring.
Sue Halpern is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College. She lives with her husband, the writer Bill McKibben, and Pransky in Vermont. She is the author of five previous books.
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A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home: Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher
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