Sunday Seniors: Lucy Mac, Thompson Senior Center Team Up for Pet Visits

  • Thelma Jillson, of Pomfret, visits with Mitzie at the Thompson Senior Center in Woodstock, Vt. Nearly every month, the Lucy Mackenzie Humane Society brings a dog to socialize with people at the senior center. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Calendar Editor
Saturday, August 12, 2017

Woodstock — Thelma Jillson had pet dogs for much of her life, but now she’s unable to have canine companions of her own. These days, it’s monthly visits with an adoptable pet from the Lucy Mackenzie Humane Society that give the 89-year-old Pomfret resident those endorphine-filled animal interactions.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Jillson said as she pushed her walker, adorned with flowers, into the Thompson Senior Center’s common room, where she spotted a little white dog named Mitzie.

The senior center and humane society recognize the benefit of the human-animal visits, and it’s one of the motivations behind their monthly pet visit program.

“It’s a great marriage of two nonprofit organizations,” said Pam Butler, program director at the Thompson Senior Center. “Two great popular loves in people’s lives are seniors and pets.”

During this visit, Mitzie relaxed on Jillson’s lap eager to accept the petting that came her way as Jackie Stanley, shelter manager of the Lucy Mackenzie Humane Society in West Windsor, sat beside the pair.

“Look at this little thing,” said Jillson, a regular volunteer and visitor to the humane society, as Mitzie snuggled up against her.

“She’s quite happy,” Butler observed.

The visits have been going on for about five years and benefit the dogs, as well as the people. (Cats typically do not come along.)

“I think any opportunity we can get our animals out of the shelter” and into another environment “is really good exposure,” Stanley said.

Butler recalled a past visit during which a man who had suffered a stroke and could speak very little interacted with a dog visitor.

“He just lit up,” Butler recalled. “What this dog did for his outlook that day was incredible. That makes all the difference in the world.”

The humane society also donates food from the pet food shelf to the senior center, which then delivers it to home meal-delivery recipients who request it for their pets.

Lucy Mackenzie has a senior companion pet program that assists people 65 and older with pet adoptions. “Then we do our best to support them post-adoption,” Stanley said.

The shelter usually visits on the third Thursday of each month as long as a volunteer and pet are able to attend.

Editor’s note: For more information about the pet visits, contact the senior center at 802-457-3277. Dogs are welcome at the Thompson Center, but not in the kitchen. Mitzie has been adopted, but there are many other pets up for adoption at the humane society. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.