Lifestyle & Human Interest

Gracie the Golden Pup Brings 'Smiles, Cuddles' to Elderly Care Facility Residents Who Can't Visit with Family


Having a pet in our lives can be incredibly therapeutic, but sometimes we need that companionship the most when we’re least able to access it.

Many people in elderly care facilities fondly remember their dearly departed four-legged friends, but most of those complexes don’t allow residents to have animals.

Some facilities, however, have found a way to provide critters for residents to love and be loved by — and the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society in Scotland, South Dakota, is one of those places.

For some time, a dog named Hope patrolled the halls, giving out kisses and waiting patiently for pats.

“She became very instrumental in the residents’ day: She had her routine where she would go to certain rooms at certain times,” Pam Stewart, the facility’s social services manager and Hope’s owner, told KELO-TV. “She comforted people when they were passing away, she comforted families, she spent time with people who were depressed.”

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Sadly, Hope died from lymphoma in November, and her absence was deeply felt. In January, Stewart got a new puppy, a golden retriever named Gracie.

“She was round and roly-poly, and the plan was to keep her at home for a couple of weeks and get to know her and then bring her on a limited basis,” Stewart said.

Gracie has big shoes to fill, but from photos recently shared by the Good Samaritan Society, she’s doing a stellar job already.

“Meet Gracie, the newest member of the Good Samaritan Society – Scotland, South Dakota, family,” the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society posted on its Facebook page on March 14. “Gracie is a 3-month-old golden retriever who is the center’s new pet. Gracie brings happiness and joy to residents and staff.”

“We’ve seen a lot of changes since she’s come,” Stewart told Good Morning America. “We’ve seen a lot of smiles, cuddles. It’s giving them a lot to talk about versus what they’ve seen in the world.”

“She’s making people smile,” Stewart told KELO. “We’ve had people talking who hadn’t talked for a while. We’ve had people move in their wheelchairs who hadn’t necessarily motivated their wheelchairs in a while.”

Gracie’s presence seems to be especially helpful because many residents haven’t been able to spend time with their families in-person.

“I talk to her and pet her,” Dennis Gruhlke, one of the residents, told Good Morning America.

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“I haven’t had a lot of visitors. No … we were on a lockdown pretty much here till a couple weeks ago,” he told KELO.

“Companion dogs are just great to have around for just having a dog in the facility … to pet and talk to and break up the monotony of the day.”

Stewart said Gracie is starting to get used to the routine and gets excited every morning to “go to work,” and the residents certainly are happy to see her.

Many people have commented on the original Facebook post, saying how wonderful it is to have a resident dog and hoping that more facilities will do something similar.

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