South Park resident Barbara Emert is enriching the lives of both humans and canines alike through her love of adopted greyhounds.
Those with a four legged companion know they bring so much joy, but studies have shown dogs can reduce stress, increase self confidence, and even speed the recovery time of ill patients and the pain of those in hospice care. Along with other amenities senior care homes have added to help their residents thrive, more and more facilities offer sessions with trained therapy dogs and handlers for their residents to socialize with and provide an abundance of love.
Barbara Emert of South Park starting rescuing greyhounds in 1998. For the past two years, she has been making connections to those in the South Hills of Pittsburgh through her love of dogs and the gentle nature of one of her companions. To date, Emert has adopted six greyhounds from Going Home Greyhounds, a nonprofit connecting retired racing greyhounds with loving families based in Wexford, PA. When Emert adopted Ezra, his career ended due to a broken leg. After his recovery, she started taking him to obedience school, and then graduated him to therapy dog training. They’ve been doing therapy work for two years. She knows enjoys his work as a therapy dog.
She says, “They just want to be loved. They are very grateful for someone to take care of them and love them. They return the favor by showing affection towards people.”
She takes Ezra, along with another therapy dog and owner, to Mount Vernon of South Park and Genesis Rehabilitation in Bridgeville monthly to visit with the residents. It’s posted on the resident’s monthly calendar as a standing appointment. Some residents look forward to seeing the dogs and the dogs enjoy their time. Over time, she learns about the regular residents who attend her program, but touches on the emotional challenges of working with therapy dogs. Some residents face hardships and have to move to different levels of care, or pass on. It’s a loss to her and the other residents, but still thinks the reward of pet therapy is a worthwhile endeavor.
“In the Alzheimer’s wing, some people don’t respond to anything, but when the dogs come in, they lift their hand and place it on the dog,” she recalls from a powerful visit. She gets a lot of joy in seeing the connection people are able to make with Ezra. She was even told last year she gave the best Christmas present ever. The gift she gave wasn’t expensive or sought after, but to one of the residents at Mount Vernon, seeing Emert’s therapy greyhound that Christmas was the only thing she wanted to do.
For those interested in adopting a retired greyhound of their own, please visit goinghomegreyhounds.org for more information. Emert stresses this is a life long commitment and that greyhounds may not be the dog for everyone, but they are so full of love to give.