Home sweet home for adopted dog


By Meta Hemenway-Forbes

Cedar Falls, Iowa – Some circumstances fall together so beautifully it’s almost certain they were meant to be.

So goes the story of Pops the dog and his friendship with residents of the Western Home’s Thalman Square, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

On Feb. 10, Pops arrived at the Cedar Bend Humane Society (CBHS). The odds were long for finding the 9-year-old Labrador retriever mix a forever home.

“A black Lab, a senior dog – they are the last to be adopted,” said Caitlyn Evans, adoption supervisor at CBHS. “He kind of had everything riding against him.”

But as fate would have it, Pops was everything staff and residents of Thalman were looking for.

Thalman Square is home to older residents with memory impairments, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies show animal-assisted therapy improves mood, decreases behavioral issues and has a calming effect in patients with memory impairment. It also encourages social interaction.

“He’s loved by everyone,” said Thalman resident Phyllis Duffman. “(Pops is) so open and so fresh. Everybody just loves to take time with him. It’s a mood lifter. And there’s more togetherness.”

Pops was at the Cedar Bend shelter for a little more than a month when Thalman Square director Diana Lane began searching for a resident pooch. The dog would need to meet requirements set forth by a committee that included staff and residents.

They needed a dog that was calm and mature, one that understood when his presence was welcome and when it was not. Lane came across Pops while browsing the CBHS website.

“We saw his mug shot with the gray (face) and it was so endearing,” she said. “We went to meet him, and he was perfect.”

Not much is known about Pops’ life before last fall. In October, a dog rescue in Florida surrendered him and numerous other dogs to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A lack of sufficient resources and proper care led to the deterioration of the Florida facility and the conditions of the dogs.

Pops was among seven of those dogs brought to CBHS after receiving months of medical care and behavioral enrichment at a temporary ASPCA shelter in Virginia. Long-haul moves like that and time in a shelter can be stressful, particularly for an aging dog.

Pops, named by the ASPCA for his salt-and-pepper muzzle, shows no signs of stress these days. He spends hours curled up on sofas next to Thalman residents. Those who aren’t particularly talkative tend to open up when sitting next to Pops.

“He’s a very good listener,” said Rebecca Rohwedder, Pops’ primary caretaker and Thalman’s certified therapeutic recreation specialist. “He’s a very relaxing dog.”

Every morning, Pops accompanies Rohwedder to get the mail and do his doggy outdoor duties. He greets all staff, residents and visitors who cross his path.

“He’s gotten comfortable walking down the halls, peeking around and looking for new friends,” Rohwedder said.

Like other residents at Thalman, Pops has his own room, his own daily schedule and personal medical and nutrition charts. It’s a must for continuity of care between staffing shifts, Rohwedder said.

While he has his own space that includes a cozy bed, the pup who once had no home now prefers to spend most of his time in Thalman’s common area among his new, extended forever family.

“Pops comes right to me. He is so good, so well-behaved,” Duffman said.  “We had a family dog, a Lab, for 13 years. It brings back memories.” -AP