Never met a stranger

By Eric Thomas

Some people spend their lives searching for a purpose. Others are fortunate to be born with an instinct of helping others. Even at 10 years old, he knows. Meet Rascal. A 5-pound Terrier mix that has become quite the buddy at Walker Nursing Home in Virginia, Illinois.

His owner, Nancy Becker, enjoys taking him with her on her many excursions running errands on her days off. “When I go to the pet store, he enjoys people shopping,” stated Becker. “Looking for people who want to interact with him.”

For the last year, Rascal has made some very important visits. As he is riding in Becker’s vehicle and they turn off Route 78 on to Beardstown Street in Virginia, he knows where they are heading, and he gets all excited. A year ago, Becker’s mother moved into Walker Nursing Home, located on Beardstown Street and when she did, Nancy got permission to bring Rascal when she came for a visit.

When Rascal arrives for a visit, he is warmly greeted by the staff and residents on his way to see Becker’s mother. After greeting her mom in her room, he knows that he can set outside her door because he gets to see more people that way. After a while, they take a stroll through the halls and he greets anyone who responds to his presence. “If he had his way, he would go door to door all around the whole building,” commented Nancy. He has no special training, but he is kind and gentle, keeping his four paws on the floor where they belong.

Pets can easily help with feelings of depression and loneliness with anyone. They have been known to help lower blood pressure and reduce stress. There is a growing field out there in pet therapy. The documented benefits of interaction with pets by the elderly are mental, emotional, and even physical. In addition to helping with depression and loneliness, pets have been known to help people fight feelings of anxiety and problems with dementia. Nationwide, more and more nursing home facilities, retirement centers and even hospitals have started seeing the benefits of having pets around.

Walker Nursing Home has been in existence since 1950. With 71 beds, this skilled and intermediate care nursing facility provides individualized, holistic care to meet the residents’ physical, social, spiritual, and emotional needs. They offer physical, speech, and occupational therapies and they are a Medicare and Medicaid approved facility. Walker Nursing Home is located at 530 E. Beardstown St. in Virginia and can be reached at 217-452-3218.

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