Therapy Dogs Bring Puppy Love to Older Adult Center

A large black poodle with wavy hair on his ears, with his mouth open and tongue hanging out, wearing a red New York Therapy Animals bandana
A black lab is pet by two women wearing COVID masks
Nelco in action

With wavy black hair and soulful eyes, Waldo is strikingly handsome. He’s also not afraid to show affection—whether by gently nuzzling your hand or curling up at your feet.  

A black standard poodle, Waldo is one of two dogs holding regular Pet Therapy sessions at our Lincoln Square Older Adult Center. On a recent visit he was joined by his friend Nelco, a black lab. 

“We’re spreading the love of our dogs,” said Nelco’s owner Linda Reals with a laugh. “They’re such good dogs it’d be selfish to keep them to ourselves.” 

Older Adult Center members gathered in a ring of chairs around the dogs, petting them and sharing stories about the animals in their lives, both past and present. “It’s very social,” Waldo’s owner Jill Crovitz explained. “There’s a lot of conversation that happens. The dogs are very relaxing and they aren’t judgmental.”

They can even help bring people out of their shell, she adds: “People who aren’t very verbal, if you’re consistent about visiting, they start to open up.” 

Both dogs are trained, licensed and insured by New York Therapy Animals, a nonprofit organization. Owners and dogs must complete a 7-week program together to ensure that the owners have good control of their canine partners and that the dogs will be calm, well-behaved and able to handle situations like crowds and sudden noises.

The dogs come on Mondays and their visits are open to all members of the Older Adult Center. Member Isadora Kohon Teran is a fan. 

“It’s good and it’s healthy,” she says, referring to studies showing petting a dog increases the feel-good hormone oxytocin while lowering the stress hormone cortisol. “They’re affectionate. They’re wonderful.”