Residents at Virginia Lodge Rest Home in Whanganui enthusiastically greeted their canine visitor Thumpa the golden retriever after missing his visits recently.
Thumpa and his owner Ann Evans had to postpone their regular visits during Covid-19 restrictions and sadly last Friday's visit was a chance for everyone to say goodbye.
Evans has been taking Thumpa and her other golden retrievers, Sophie and Okie Dokie, to visit residents at the Virginia Lodge and Broadview rest homes for 10 years as a volunteer working for Canine Friends.
Canine Friends formed almost 30 years ago in response to research showing that people who are stressed, lonely, unhappy or unwell benefit from the natural affection of friendly dogs.
"I have always enjoyed it and the dogs love it," Evans said.
"They get a lot of pats and cuddles and I get satisfaction from seeing the joy on people's faces and the way it can lift their mood if they are not having a good day."
She hasn't minded the one-hour drive from her home in Ohingaiti, either.
"Unfortunately, I now have to give up my visiting here as we are shifting to Dannevirke and, even for me, that distance is a little too far to travel so this is my last visit.
"We will greatly miss all the residents, their families and staff we have met along the way."
Evans also previously worked as the liaison officer for Canine Friends in Whanganui and helped to restart the branch with the appointment of new officer Sandy McAllen last year.
There will be new furry faces visiting Virginia Lodge soon, but in the meantime there is Winston.
Winston is a golden retriever belonging to Virginia Lodge's diversional therapist Sharon Mesic.
"Winston will be happy to come and fill the void as he loves being here," Mesic said.
"He is also an experienced therapy dog and he is big and gentle like Thumpa."
Mesic said she is a firm believer in the benefits pets bring to rest home residents.
"The two cats that live here are a real comfort to the residents as well.
"Pet therapy is better than any tablet. They are a wonderful antidepressant."
Some Virginia Lodge residents said Thumpa reminded them of their former pet dogs and Veronica Witton said he was "lovely".
"I never had a dog but he is so nice he makes me wonder why I didn't," she said.
Evans has also visited hospital and hospice patients, as well as UCOL students, for stress therapy sessions with her dogs and will continue her Canine Friends work once she is settled in Dannevirke.
For more information on Canine Friends contact Sandy McAllen at caninefriends.org.nz