Cuddly Comfort

Stuffed pets donated to Alzheimer’s patients

By Lindsey Erdody Published:

The Lantern, an assisted living home for Alzheimer’s patients, is now home to two dogs – a black Labrador and a Pomeranian.

Stuffed dogs, that is.

Through Pets 2 People, a program by Memorable Pets that allows customers to buy stuffed animals for someone unknown, two women—Dorothy Archer and Francoise Moseley received pets last Tuesday.

Memorable Pets, created in 2011, sells stuffed animal cats and dogs to comfort Alzheimer’s patients.

Bettina Dickson Rusher, CEO and co-founder, and her sister started the company after seeing the positive affect a stuffed animal had on their mother.

They bought a stuffed cat for their mother after she had to give up her real cat when she moved into the Alzheimer’s unit at Thomson-Hood Veterans Center in Wilmore.

Three days later, their mother was carrying it around everywhere, and Rusher and her sister expanded the idea into Memorable Pets.

While shopping on Memorable Pets’ website, customers can choose whether to purchase it through the Pets 2 People program or to buy it personally for a loved one.

“We were thinking there might be people … that might want to buy pets as a donation that we can deliver,” Rusher said.

Once a pet is donated, the buyer receives an email telling them where it was sent and whether it was a man or woman who received it.

Rusher said about 10 to 15 percent of their sales come from Pets 2 People.

Once an animal is purchased through Pets 2 People, Rusher finds a home for it in an Alzheimer’s-only living home.

She contacts the home and works with them to find a match for the pet. She said she’s delivered animals throughout Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia.

“It’s basically wherever we can get them,” Rusher said.

She contacted The Lantern, Frankfort’s only Alzheimer’s-specific unit, and Program Director Missy Hammons loved the idea.

Rusher said finding the recipients is also based on what stage they’re at, because it’s better for patients in the middle or late stages of the disease.

“As the disease progresses, people become sort of childlike,” Rusher said. “They regress backwards.”

Hammons said she picked Archer and Moseley for the dogs because they both love animals, and she knew they would appreciate the pet.

Rusher said reactions vary when she delivers the pets. On Thursday, she said Moseley, who received the black lab, was less comfortable than Archer, who received the Pomeranian, and was attached right away.

“She just took to it immediately and started playing with it and hugging it,” Rusher said. “It was really cute.”

Rusher said sometimes you have to reassure patients that the animals won’t hurt them, but once they’re comfortable with it, they seem to love it.

“The nurses do say it helps,” Rusher said. “If someone gets upset, they can use this to calm them down.”

Hammons said Archer and Moseley have really taken to the dogs.

“It’s a soothing mechanism,” Hammons said. “I think they were very thankful for them.”

She said she thinks other patients at The Lantern would benefit from the animals and is trying to get more by presenting the idea to family members.

“It was a really great gift to the residents,” Hammons said. “Hopefully in the future we can get some more.”

To purchase a pet through Pets 2 People or for a loved one, visit memorablepets.com

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.

  • I wasn't aware, tamedshrew, that LIFE house was taking animals to the facility on a regular basis. I think that is absolutely wonderful. It benefits both sides.

  • What comforts them is carrying the animal around and cuddling it. My mother carried a stuffed cat while at an Alzheimer's facility. But you need to remember that with Alzheimer's, the sufferer doesn't always take "care" of the animal. That's why it's best for one not to live there. BTW - the LIFE House takes animals over there a couple times a week for supervised visits.

  • It is no big problem to a house mature and gentle dog inside as it is done all the time in other facilities around the state. I have seen them with my own eyes. There is staff on duty all of the time in these places to take care of the animal, which don't need much more than food, water and to be let outside to do their business occasionally. The dogs just wander around some for some petting time and then lay down near people that they like the most.

  • "They regress backwards." Huh? Wouldn't that mean progression? Oh well, still going to buy a plushy kitty for someone's granny or grampy. I do agree with the previous post, but I do recognize that it would be highly impractical to house live animals in a facility that cares for the ailing elderly. Maybe an occasional outing for a few of our shelter inmates would benefit each?

  • Why not get some real mature and gentle dogs from the Humane Society as some of the other Alzheimer's facilities have done. Many of them are on "death row" because of their advanced age makes them less likely to be adopted. There is a lot of research out there that indicates how beneficial these animals are to the patients and how beneficial the patients are to them.