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Shiloh- A Woman's Best Friend

January 30, 2015

By Mary Beth Wighton
For most of my life, I have been a “cat person.” I have had many beautiful cats that have entertained me with their personalities. My all time favourite was a Main Coon named “Jack.” Jack the Cat was rescued by my friend Marie. He was in terrible shape due from being out in the cold winter, lack of food, water and warmth. After a visit to the vet, Marie and Theresa brought him to my home.

When he was let out of his cat carrier, I almost fell over looking at the sight of the most ugliest cat I had ever seen. The vet had to shave him right down because of his matted fur. We laughed at this craziest looking cat. Another friend, Linda, coined the name: Jack. This is a short-form for the cat “hitting the jackpot” on living with me. Eventually, he turned into a beautiful big boy of 20lbs.

But I have digressed. On our fourth Valentines day celebration, Dawn stated she wanted a Labrador dog for a present for me. He would join our already formed pack of 2 other dogs – Leo and Riley. It took a lot of convincing for me to concede and agree.

Dawn did a lot of research into local breeders and eventually discovered one who she liked. This breeder was scheduled to visit with his three brown labs. One was the mother, and the other two were the pups. This is when our family was introduced to Shiloh. He was the more calmer dog of the two pups being shown to us. He was the perfect pup with really big paws and ran with his butt almost running faster than the front part of his body.

Although Shiloh was the biggest of our dogs, he always was the most calmer and best dispositioned. He even let our cat sleep in his bed or drink his water. Everyone loves Shiloh.

This past year, Shiloh became the only one left in our pack of dogs. I found having three dogs too stimulating and I became agitated. We made the very hard decision to adopt Leo and Riley out to a good home. We all miss them but know its for the best.

Its curious, as the longer I am sick with Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD), the more Shiloh seems to bond with me. If he is not lying in his bed, usually he will be laying at my feet. If I go outside without him, he has been known to sit at the door whining until I return. Shiloh and I are thick as thieves. I whisper my secrets to him and tell him of my frustrations and triumphs. He is such a wonderful listener and never interrupts me.

An important thing that he does is he calms me down. If I am feeling anxious, sad or agitated, just by patting him I begin to feel better. He is very good for my emotional well-being.

Before my diagnosis, I was researching into the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program. I believed Shiloh would make a perfect candidate. These dogs can be found in hospitals, retirement residents, and long-term care facilities. From visiting with a dog, patients talk more, participate in activities eat and sleep better. Overall, their quality of life improves.

Once I was diagnosed with FTD, Shiloh has become my own therapy dog. He is wonderful for me. Therefore, I found it as no surprise when, today, I read about two specially-trained dogs in the UK, becoming the first dogs to assist in helping people with early-stage dementia. http://www.alzscot.org/news_and_community/news/2533_the_first_two_dementia_assistance_dogs _have_started_work The dogs, responding to sound alerts, can help with regular hydration,medication and toilet use. In addition, they can also be trained to provide orientation when outside of the home.

Just like me with my Shiloh, the social and emotional benefits are huge for the two individuals who have received a dementia dog. From my own experiences as a person with dementia, I can attest to the therapeutic effect a dog has on my mood.

There is a reason why dogs are called “man's best friend.” They are loyal, comforting and look past any physical or emotional challenges someone may have.

I look forward to watching the Dementia Dog program become internationally known and helping those with dementia. I believe this will happen relatively quickly as its website, http://www.dementiadog.org/ is receiving so many visitors, that it has exceeded its internet bandwidth limit. Awesome job team!