Halloween Edition of “Pooches on Parade” Draws Paws and Applause
Last Saturday, The Nathaniel Witherell hosted some very special four-legged visitors in the auditorium during its quarterly “Pooches on Parade” event. In honor of the Halloween season, many of the visiting dogs were dressed in costume.
Residents gathered in a large circle in the auditorium, and spilled into the adjacent solarium. Each dog/owner team came up to the microphone, and told the crowd all about their dogs. Some dogs even did special tricks, including dancing in a tutu on two feet! In the remainder of the hour, the dogs and their owners “worked the room” and mingled with Witherell residents.
Sally Van Leeuwen, Witherell’s volunteer coordinator, says, “The Witherell has been doing a pet show of some sort for over 35 years. Originally, It was mostly dogs, but we’d get an occasional cat, bird, or hamster. About five years ago, I thought we should expand this popular activity, so we organized Pooches on Parade as a regular, four-times-a-year event.” Typically, there are 12 to 15 dogs, and the human participants can be staff, family members, volunteers, or members of the community who see the notice placed in the newspaper.
Van Leeuwen refers to Pooches on Parade as the “formal part of pet therapy.” She says, “The informal part is the individual dog and owner teams who come in and go around the building on their own, coming when it is convenient for them and working it into their own schedules.” She adds, “We have regular weekday as well as weekend pet therapy volunteers. They usually spend 30 to 60 minutes going around the building and interacting with any dog lovers they come across.”
Witherell also has a regular cat therapy team. Volunteer Lisa Wysocki brings her cat Jackson in every other week, and cat-loving residents gather in the chapel for the Cat Club. Van Leeuwen comments, “Jackson is a lap cat; we pass him from resident to resident to hold.”
Indeed, Witherell is a very pet-friendly facility, even boasting its very own mascot − Merry Marini, a black pug owned by the executive director’s administrative assistant Linda Marini. Linda brings Merry to work with her, and often takes a few minutes to bring Merry around to greet the residents.