Love on a Leash: AARF Program Brings Pets and Seniors Together |  News

ASHLAND It is not unusual to find David Frame visiting the residents of Trinity Station in Flatwoods.

He’s not the only one.

Ashland Animal Rescue Fund’s program, called Love on a Leash, brings volunteers to local nursing and assisted living homes with animals, their own pets or those in AARF’s care, to visit residents.

Frame said she takes her dogs, Jack, a Brussels Griffon, and Willie, a Yorkie mix.

“We get there on the third Thursday of the month and we meet in a common area and the residents come to visit us,” Frame said. “Then we go to the Alzheimer’s unit.”

Sharri Dillon, AARF’s program coordinator, said the program came to a standstill when COVID-19 hit and no one was allowed into care centers.

Before the pandemic, volunteers visited 11 establishments; now, Dillon said she hopes to rebuild the program, that she’s just going to Trinity Station and will return to Boyd County Nursing and Rehabilitation this month.

“Some of the facilities come and go with COVID cases, and some of them are not comfortable with us going in and some of the volunteers are not comfortable going,” Dillon said.

The rewards of the program, however, are great for both volunteers and residents.

“It’s very encouraging to go there because when we go and talk, we become their friends and they tell us about the pets they’ve had,” he said. “It’s comforting to them that animals come in and love them.”

Some, like Frame, bring their own pets, but all must be fully vaccinated.

Missy Thornburg volunteers for AARF in a variety of capacities, including Love on a Leash. She has taken her cat, Alex, who was a “breeding failure,” and some of her other pets, but she also likes to bring some AARF charges to visit.

“It gets them out of the kennel environment, and that’s very important to them,” Thornburg said. “It gives them a chance to socialize and it’s a good day for them, too.”

Although care must be taken that the cats do not scratch the residents, he said both cats and dogs like to watch.

“They really love it when we bring cats because a lot of them had cats,” she said. “I think just visiting is important because we know a lot of those people don’t get visitors and they’re always happy to see us. They always light up when we enter the room. That’s very happy.”

Participating animals must also be properly socialized, Dillon said.

“We know which dogs would do well, which ones are well behaved,” he said of the dogs currently living at the kennel. “It’s good socialization for the animals and it puts them in the public eye, and staff and family members may want them or they may know someone who is looking for a dog.”

He said that it is very satisfying to participate in the program.

“The residents inside the facility have become friends of ours,” Dillon said. “I look forward to each visit and to see our friends. …I know I treasure each and every one of the people I have met while visiting the places we go. The stories, the smiles, the laughter and the love every time you visit us is something I will treasure and carry with me forever.”

Frame said that Love on a Leash is a great show with good people involved.

“I like meeting the people there and talking to them. I find it very interesting and I don’t know if they enjoy the dogs more or the conversation more,” she said. “You know how any animal can make your day. I don’t know how they do it, but they sure do.”

Dillon said the programs have multiple purposes.

“This is AARF giving back to the community,” he said. “The animals are so affectionate that (residents) eat it.”