For almost 15 years, volunteers from the Kansas Humane Society have been bringing adoptable animals to the community to spread happiness and rekindle past loves through a program called Project Companionship.
The volunteers visit the community once a month, and, according to program coordinator Sue Kleinheksel, both the reception and overall impact the visits have on residents is incredible.
“It’s just amazing how many thank yous we receive from the residents,” said Sue. “Even when we go into the memory care facilities, the people who are not very cordial or responsive will start responding to the animals and will start talking and smiling.”
Each visit to the community is a little different and can often vary in length depending on the “stamina” of individual dogs and cats.
“Sometimes they have a wonderful time and want to stay forever but some get tired because they’re in so many laps of residents and in bed with residents,” said Sue.
To help supplement the living/breathing companions, Sue and the other volunteers also bring along Bridget, a large stuffed dog that residents can hold and hug. But she says, regardless of whether the animal is stuffed or real, she is always struck by the incredible power of animals.
“They bring so much joy to the residents, staff and families during our visits,” said Sue. “It’s just amazing to see what animals do for our health.”
Currently, Project Companionship visits 14 communities in the area and despite the workload, Sue doesn’t consider it work.
“It’s such a joy,” said Sue. “People ask, ‘what kind of job is it’ and I say, ‘it’s not a job…it’s a joy.’”
PHOTOS: Barker Davis (left) enjoys a visit by the Kansas Humane Society. Former resident Hertha Shale (right) and a lap dog from the Kansas Humane Society.