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On one of my recent walks through the Cleveland Clinic, I noticed (once again) a beautiful dog sharing with me the pedestrian walkway over Carnegie Avenue. Who could have imagined, even as recently as a decade or so ago, a dog pawing along the antiseptic halls of our healthcare institutions? Of course, he had a trainer, was on a leash and was doing his work for a purpose—no doubt a well-defined one—backed up by studies of the salutary effect of unconditional canine love on the health of patients.
A year prior to that stroll, my brother and I were searching for assisted living options for our mother (of blessed memory). Many of the facilities were, as my brother put it, ‘nursing homes masquerading as assisted living’. Fortunately, we found a place that bucked the trend. In fact, I told mom that the place we found was ‘as quirky as corporate could get!’ It worked well for her. Having lived a wonderfully quirky life, she bloomed during her final 6 months of life there. When I first walked into this assisted living facility (that resembled a country inn), I was greeted by Sonny, the pound-rescued dog that had the run of the place. Most days Sonny would be asleep on a chair in the foyer, and if not there, on the floor behind the front desk, or in the sunroom or in the bistro (with the jukebox that played favourites from the 1940s and 1950s). Sonny just was there—splayed out most days …