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