Jon King was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago in 2016. At age 77, Jon can no longer go on long walks or participate in anything too active. He, like many others in his position, has struggled with his health since his diagnosis and has fought hard to maintain his memory.
He and his wife, Jeanette, recognized that socialization is key when dealing with a dementia diagnosis, and so they turned to Dementia Dog. This organization was born out of the collaboration between Alzheimer Scotland and UK-based charity Dogs for Good. They specially train assistance animals to help people with dementia, as well as their carers.
In 2018, Jon and Jeanette brought home a black lab named Lenny from Dementia Dog. “When your partner receives a diagnosis, it feels like your life is closing down,” said Jeanette. “But Lenny has opened up a new world.”
Lenny was specially trained through the Dementia Dog program, and is able to assist in a wide variety of ways such as retrieving medicine bags, gently waking Jon from his naps, and helping him remove items of clothing. Lenny also helps both Jon and Jeanette remain active and social, while also remaining safe during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“We’re out every day with Lenny. That is a bonus for our health and socializing — we are forever stopping to talk to people,” Jeanette explained. “Jon can’t bear to be without Lenny now. He’s the one thing always guaranteed to make him smile.” Though Jon is no longer able to join Lenny and Jeanette on their daily, hour-long walks, he still enjoys short trots and sitting in the garden while throwing Lenny his ball.
Dementia Dog has continued to provide support to their clients during the lockdown, searching for new and creative ways to increase connection and minimize social isolation. This has taken the form of virtual therapy walks, online Doggy Bingo, and physiotherapy sessions. Dementia Dog knows that their assistance animals not only help make everyday tasks simpler, but they provide immense emotional support as well.
“Jon has suffered from severe depression for many years, but Lenny provides a positive start to the day,” explained Jeanette. “He makes Alzheimer’s that little less frightening.” Jeanette continues to express how strong Lenny and Jon’s emotional bond is. Lenny is gentle, kind, and patient, and often helps defuse the tension between Jon and Jeanette when they have disagreements.
“Lenny has changed our lives. Getting Lenny is one of the best things I’ve done in my life.” If you’d like to learn more about the good work Dementia Dog is doing, be sure to check out their website and Facebook page!
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