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Shenzhen's first 'doctor dogs' visit elderly
Latest Updated by 2007-03-15 10:47:50
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Two "doctor dogs" paid their first visit to more than 10 elderly people at the Shenzhen Social Welfare Center yesterday, bringing joy and laughter during the one-hour session.

Helen, a golden retriever, and Nini, a Chihuahua, are the only two out of some 200,000 dogs in the city to pass an assessment late January to become the city's first "doctor dogs," a program sponsored by the Hong Kong-based Animals Asia Foundation (AAF).

Helen and Nini, each wearing a bright red "doctor dog" scarf and a work certificate, laid down on the lawn to frolic with the elderly and were docile when people fondled them.

Nini's owner, Wang Jiahui, who took half a day off yesterday for the visit, said they had visited owners of "doctor dogs" in Guangzhou last month to see how the scheme worked.

"I am happy sharing Nini with others to bring them comfort. Getting involved in social activities also helps Nini build a better character," she said.

Several elderly women vied to give Nini a hug. "I used to be a kindergarten teacher. Having the little dog in my arms reminds me of the happy years spent with kids," said 84-year-old Huang Xiurong, a native of Guangzhou who has been living in Shenzhen for nearly 30 years since her two children settled here.

"I play cards with other elderly people here, read papers and watch TV in the evening, but have little to do in the afternoon. The dogs are a pleasant surprise," she said.

Zhang Zhuangli, director of the senior citizens' department of the center, applauded the program. "As long as they offer standard training for the dogs, so they do not frighten or harm people, it's a good effort to comfort the lonely here," she said.

More than 90 people, with an average age of 86, live in the government-subsidized center, which opened in 1999.

"Volunteers and family members come to visit them on weekends. But they are lonely at other times."

The dogs will visit children at the center on their next visit in two months, said Yang Min, AAF's spokesperson.

Started by Briton Jill Robinson in 1991, the "doctor dog" program has so far authorized more than 300 therapy dogs and volunteer pet owners who make regular visits to hospitals, disabled centers, homes for the elderly, orphanages and schools in six Asian countries.

Lan Chou, founder of www.szdog.org, a popular Web site among local pet owners, said the site is open to owners to apply for their pets to apply for the next test in August.

Scientific research has found that playing with pets can help people relax, feel composed and enhance their immunity system.

On the mainland, the program was first launched in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, in November 2004 and Guangzhou in March last year.

Editor: Yan

By: Li Dan Source: Szdaily web edition
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