At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home

Love, Imagination, and Human Interaction

Bella a Golden Retriever PuppyBlondie, my dad’s loyal companion, got a Christmas present herself this year: Oscar, a Golden Retriever puppy from the same company that made Blondie. Oscar (that’s the name Dad chose — on the website, the Douglas Company shows the same puppy named ‘Bella’) is full of spunk and personality. His arrival has sparked a lot of conversation — Blondie was clearly nonplussed when this little upstart showed up. But she’s learned to defer to the obstreperous youngster, and they’re fast pals now.

When my husband visited my dad recently, he picked up Oscar and held him in his arms during our entire visit. We didn’t talk about Oscar, but throughout the visit, Paul was quietly animating him: Oscar turned his head here and there, he wiggled his paws occasionally, he scrunched down to settle himself in Paul’s arms. When Oscar wasn’t moving actively, Paul tucked one hand under him so that he appeared to be breathing quietly.

When I returned the following day, my dad picked Oscar up while we were talking. Without giving it any apparent thought at all, my dad began moving Oscar very much the same way Paul had, thoroughly enjoying the company of his little puppy, and, obviously, the memory of the previous day’s visit. By bringing Oscar that much more ‘alive,’ Paul had modeled another, more active, way for Dad to enjoy his ‘pet.’ My dad spends very little time using his hands for anything other than holding books, and occasionally patting Blondie and Oscar — this was a new experience for him, and one that clearly pleased him very much.

For people who no longer have the animals they’ve loved, a pet like Oscar or Blondie can be not only emotionally rewarding and satisfying to the senses, but can also provide opportunities for mental stimulation. Keeping imagination alive is important for all human happiness; having a focus for talking with others encourages conversation in environments, like nursing homes or in long-term care situations, where interaction doesn’t always happen unless there is an appealing natural trigger.

Oscar/Bella makes a great pet wherever the shoe-chewing version isn’t exactly welcome. At 16 inches long, they’re the perfect size to hold in a lap or tuck in an arm while in bed — and not too big to hitchhike along in a wheelchair.

Bella is under $20 (USD) most anywhere you can find Douglas Toys, or at various places on the Internet