Once upon a time, Andy the shepherd mix lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands’ St. Thomas as an emotional support dog. When multiple hurricanes hit the Virgin Islands in the latter part of 2017, her owner could no longer care for the pup. Andy was picked up by Love for Love City, a rescue organization founded by country music star Kenny Chesney to help rescue pets lost or abandoned in Hurricane Irma. Andy came to the contiguous United States by plane and ended up in a place where her emotional support skills could be put to use: Delmar Gardens of Chesterfield.
Delmar Gardens of Chesterfield started fostering puppies three years ago. The program was met with enthusiasm from the residents, and the community cared for 10 sets of puppies until they were adopted out. Stray Rescue of St. Louis approached the senior community about fostering older dogs, and the Delmar Gardens activity director, Jenni Ferguson, welcomed the idea.
“She was here probably only four hours until we knew we wanted to keep her,” Ferguson says. “It was an instant connection with everyone.”
Andy spends most of her time in Delmar Gardens’ specialized care unit, where she bonds with residents who have Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory impairments.
Katie Claus, a music therapist in the specialized care unit, says the residents love to take care of Andy as if she’s their dog.
“From the first moment we brought her in, she strutted around the whole building with her tail wagging and was comfortable being there,” Claus says. “She’s bonded with all of the residents in the specialized care unit, and there are three in particular that she’ll curl up next to. The residents’ faces light up when they see her. She’s so good with them.”
The residents love to feed Andy. Ferguson even cites one resident who will try to hide food for Andy in her walker.
“Andy will go up to the residents and put her head under their hand,” Ferguson says. “When she wants attention, she’ll put her paw on their leg. It creates a more homelike environment for the residents because they feel like they’re taking care of her.”
While talking to a resident one day about Andy, Claus says they summed the dog’s life at Delmar Gardens perfectly: “Andy’s a big kid that belongs to everyone here.”
Although Andy goes on walks throughout the whole Delmar Gardens complex, she always makes her way back toward the specialized care unit. Ferguson says she “wants to get back to her people.”
“It’s like she was meant to walk in our doors,” Ferguson says. “She’s like an angel dog.”
This story was originally published at laduenews.com. Read it on LN’s website here.