Therapy dog gives residents a paw

Brianne Fleming, Staff Writer

As Sassy, the golden retriever, walks into the Arbutus Park Manor Nursing Home’s main lobby area, she receives looks of happiness and pats on the head from residents.

Sassy is a 3-year-old loving dog who keeps the elderly and staff company at Arbutus Park Manor in Johnstown.

She is a registered therapy dog and is part of the Good Citizens Program. She went through Star Puppy Training and classes held by the American Kennel Association to be well-adapted to different people.

Business office manager Bonnie Camblin said she adores Sassy and all the joy she brings to the home.

“Sassy keeps everyone company,” said Camblin. “The residents sometimes feel down and get depressed. She can lift their spirits and always brings a smile.”

Sassy spends a majority of her time in the office. The staff takes turns walking her. The maintenance crew members take care of Sassy at night and she sleeps in the maintenance room.

On weekends she goes back to the breeder’s until Monday.

“When we first got her, she was very active,” said Camblin. “Now, she is very adaptable to different people. She participates in one-on-one visits with residents, and activities such as just sitting in the room during chorus.”

Camblin was graduated from Pitt-Johnstown in 1978 and has been at the nursing home for 37 years.

“Sassy has really become just a member of the family. She interacts with everyone.”

The head of therapeutic activities, Susan Crist, said she believes Sassy is an essential part of the nursing home.

“A few residents barely talk to anyone,” said Crist. “But, when they see the dog, they light up. Dogs and kids are what get them.”

Sassy spends a lot of her day wandering from room to room and begging for food and treats from the staff.

The Manor also has pet birds and fish in aquariums. The residents take a liking to the birds that will sit on their arm in the lobby.

Artubus Manor resident Dorothy Robinson referred to Sassy as “pretty dog” and said she enjoyed her company.

Sassy’s training included accepting friendly strangers, sitting politely for petting and coming when called.

Whether a resident or staff member at Arbutus Park Manor need some company or a simple smile each day, Sassy seems to be the answer.

Not only does she get all the attention she could ever want, but she also returns the favor by being an affectionate pick-me-up.