Two Shih Tzu puppies, Georgie and Bella, brought a bundle of puppy love to the Pines Retirement Home on National Pet Day Thursday.

The therapy animals were brought to the Pines to play and provide comfort, companionship and cuddles to residents.

“Bella and Georgie have really changed the atmosphere at The Pines Retirement Home, and they bring much happiness to the residents,” said Pines director Lynda Mitchell.

Resident Carlene McTaggart was excited. “I love dogs, they bring a lot of love, … having the puppies at the Pines brings so much joy … they are here to play with us and love us,” she said.

Four members of the McTaggart family – Finance Minister Roy McTaggart and his three brothers William, Christopher and Arthur – donated the puppies to the Pines after Roy McTaggart was contacted by the home for donations to purchase the dogs after the Pines’s board of directors gave the go-ahead for therapy dogs to be at the home.

The dogs were purchased from a local breeder for $1,000, McTaggart said.

Knowing that his mother loves dogs, Arthur McTaggart said they welcomed the opportunity to sponsor the dogs.

“Animals can be so calming and comforting that it really enhances the lives of residents,” he said, adding that from the time he was a little boy, the family always had animals around. He said having pets help people learn compassion and unconditional love and this was what the pups are going to offer residents at the home.

“My family are all animal lovers … from my youngest days we always had dogs, cats, fish, rabbits. Most of the animals that were domesticated we had in our home at one point or the other,” he said.

The names for the puppies were selected by teachers and Year 2 students of George Town Primary School, who were just as excited as the seniors to meet the puppies for the first time at the puppy handover presentation, which was also attended by Elisabeth Roper, the governor’s wife.

Back row, from left, Pines director Lynda Mitchell and the governor’s wife Elisabeth Roper, McTaggart brothers Authur, Christopher, Roy and William, with Pines residents Carlene McTaggart and George Bothwell, both seated, and Heidi Suarez of Must Love Dogs, front left, and students from the George Town Primary School. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Students gathered round petting the puppies and chatting with seniors.

“It shouldn’t come as a surprise that dogs offer humans emotional solace. They’ve been living with humans for centuries and they’ve developed a deep sense of understanding of human forms of communication,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell said approximately five years ago, she and Carol Hay thought about introducing an emotional support dogs programme for the residents. Emotional support animals provide therapeutic benefits to owners through affection and companionship. Research shows that such animals have much to offer to humans’ mental and emotional wellbeing, she said

In early December 2018, one of the resident’s family members gave them the name of a dog provider whom she said they contacted to get the two Shih Tzu pups.

Must Love Dogs, a professional dog training company, will provide training and look after the dogs.

Mitchell said the Pines management and staff were grateful to the McTaggart family for donating the puppies, as well as to Brenda Bush of Island Veterinary Services, Aimee McKie and Heidi Suarez of Must Love Dogs, and Barry Bodden of Animal House, all of whom will provide goods and services to Georgie and Bella for life.

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