A Fake Dog, A Real Connection.


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Nancy walked into the room and gasped, spotting the two dogs. “Ohhh,” she said with excitement. Nancy slowly reached out her hand and put it in front of the dog’s mouth. She gave him the chance to smell her hand before she reached out to stroke his soft fur. 

The piece of this story that makes it interesting is that the dog was not real, and Nancy has advanced Alzheimer’s disease.

Nancy is very pleasant and very tactile. She makes small conversation and mostly walks around the community, picking things up, and then putting them down again. She and her husband had a small dog, Mocha, that she used to carry around the house. I think that this dog reminds her of Mocha.

I just created a “Pet Shop” at our dementia care community. I covered the walls in pictures of cats and dogs and bought two furry dogs from Memorable Pets. Residents who came to visit the “shop” smiled and laughed as they pet the stuffed animals. 

Nancy walked off, cradling the dog in her arms, just as she had cuddled Mocha months before.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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