One of Paul’s Run’s newest residents has been very busy these last few weeks. Making rounds to bingo. Stopping in the hair salon. Attending Resident Meetings. Taking walks around the grounds. Going to physical therapy. And enjoying lots of petting and love.
As of January 11, Homer, a two and a half year old yellow Labrador retriever, has taken up permanent residence at Paul’s Run. He’s also taken up residence in the hearts of residents and staff.
Homer came to Paul’s run through Canine Partners for Life (CPL), a nationally known organization that trains service dogs. Katrina Wise, Executive Director of Paul’s Run, approached CPL three years ago to explore bringing a companion dog into the community to enrich leisure experiences for all residents, as well as offer additional comfort for those undergoing rehabilitative therapy.
Before his move to Paul’s Run, Homer participated in the Prison Puppy Raising Program at SCI-Smithfield, a central Pennsylvania men’s correctional facility, where two inmates who focused on basic obedience skills and temperament trained him. “He not only lived with two inmate handlers, he went everywhere they went- meals, work, school, visits with family, sporting events etc. “said Jennifer Swank, Puppy Program Coordinator for Canine Partners for Life.
The pups trained in the state correctional institutes bring smiles to a place that is often cold and hard and, through the program, inmates are able to give back to the community and help change lives. “The puppies teach the inmates unconditional love, responsibility, a routine and gives them the chance to help someone else while serving their time,” said Swank.
After his training at SCI-Smithfield, Homer began the rigorous process of becoming a fully trained companion dog. His gentle temperament and love of a good back scratching session made Homer an ideal candidate for being a companion dog at Paul’s Run.
Since his arrival at Paul’s Run, Homer has become a “bone-afied” celebrity around the community. Each day, he can be found walking the halls to visit as many residents as possible. Dolores Redner, Director of Health Services, accompanies Homer on some of his walks and raves about his star status. “I had him up in the healthcare section a little while ago and everyone said, “Homer!’ I felt like a non-person who was invisible!” laughs Dolores.
Above all, from the day he moved in, Homer’s loyal, soothing presence has been a joyous blessing. “He made a resident’s afternoon; Homer sat by the resident who just petted him for over a half hour,” says Dolores.
And others have been deeply moved by Homer as well. Dolores tells of another resident, who, despite challenges that make it difficult to communicate, becomes expressive in Homer’s presence. Upon meeting him for the first time, Dolores said, “Her face lit up, her expression changed and smiling she said, ‘I used to have a dog’.”
To see Homer in action, check out this video of his first day on the job at Paul’s Run.