During an event held Jan. 4, the Forsyth County Senior Services welcomed patrons and community members to a meet and greet with its first therapy dog, a 6-month-old labradoodle named Hank.
Hank is now interacting with residents through various Senior Services programs after being adopted by the department late last year.
He is participating in ongoing therapy dog training as a part of the county’s Pups with Purpose program, a collaboration between the Forsyth County Animal Shelter and Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office that gives selected inmates at the county jail an opportunity to provide care and obedience training to dogs provided by the shelter.
In November of 2021, the Forsyth County Pups with Purpose program introduced seven labradoodles that serve as the program’s first therapy dog class. After being trained by the program’s inmates, the dogs were adopted by handlers from various organizations, including Hunter Bennett with Senior Services. Bennett says that receiving Hank, the department’s first therapy dog, could not have come at a better time for him personally, as he has recently lost a family dog.
“A lot of love had already been poured into this dog,” Bennett said. “The inmate who worked with him wrote me a personal letter about how amazing Hank is.”
According to Bennett, Hank’s main job is going to be administering love to everyone he meets. Hank is already with Bennett every day and will be exposed to all who come to Senior Services.
Senior Services’ Program Coordinator Courtney Fleming said Hank is just like another employee in the department.
“Our main goal is to expose Hank to all of the programs we offer,” Fleming said. “Dog therapy has shown to be very beneficial for memory stimulation and improvements to cognitive ability.”
Bennett said there have already been great moments between Hank and their patrons including one that shows how wonderful dog therapy can be.
“We have a gentleman patron who has early-stage Alzheimer’s,” Bennett said. “He looked at Hank and there was a clarity in his eyes as he said, ‘My grandfather had a dog just like this.’ What value can be put on remembering a moment in time like that?”
As Hank finishes his training, he will soon be a certified Canine Good Citizen and official therapy dog.