When Nala, the tiny teacup poodle, was first tried out as a therapy dog at a nursing home where medications assistant Doug Dawson was working, things didn’t exactly go as planned. Being too young and kept in a kennel most of the time, Nala became “whiny and neurotic,” according to Dawson, who happily adopted her after the nursing home officials told him he could have her.
When Doug left that nursing home and began work at Lyngblomsten Care Home in St. Paul, Minnesota, he decided one day to bring Nala, now 5-years-old, with him. She’s been a fixture there ever since.
When Dawson checks into work in the morning, he puts Nala down and just lets her go, and “we just meet in passing in the hallway,” he says. Without even a single day of formal therapy training under her belt, Nala the poodle has even learned how to ride the elevator.
“She’d rather ride it alone than with people, because she knows where she’s going. If she could, she would push the button herself.”
Navigating the four-story building can’t be easy for Nala, but she does it daily, going from room to room, using what staff and residents call her “special sense” to determine where to go and who needs her comfort the most on any given day.
“If you put her down she’ll pick out the person with Alzheimer’s,” Dawson told KARE 11 News. “She has a way of picking the sick.”
It’s not just those who are sick that Nala gravitates to, either. She seems to sense when residents are approaching the ends of their lives. Sandy Glomski, a staff member at Lyngblomsten, emotionally tells the story of Izez Gugisberg, who recently passed away.
“She had died earlier in the morning, but Nala knew and went and sat with her. It was wonderful and we all were in tears.”
Whether she’s jumping into bed with them for a nuzzle and a nap or joining them for cuddles while they’re sitting in their wheelchairs, the joy and comfort Nala the poodle brings to the residents, as well as their families, is palpable in the video shot by KARE 11 News.
“Grandma loves her little girl. I just love her. She knows where to come,” says Carmen Flaherty, as Nala curls up in bed with her.
“She’s an angel,” says 90-year-old Ruth New, “I love her and she loves me.”
“Where did this little being come from,” owner Dawson says thoughtfully to the camera, “She’s here for a purpose. She really is doing God’s work.”
Nala the poodle may be small of stature, but the joy she brings to the aging residents of Lyngblomsten Care Home is immeasurable.