'Doc the Dog' takes paws-on approach at San Antonio assisted living memory-care home

Great Pyrenees rescue dog helps patients at Franklin Park Alamo Heights

SAN ANTONIO – Franklin Park Alamo Heights is an assisted living, independent and memory care home.

The memory-care wing’s best doctor is a four-legged, giant white Great Pyrenees rescue dog.

His name fits him well. Doc was introduced to patients on a trial basis about one year ago.

Executive Director David Ewing says they immediately saw a difference in their dementia residents' demeanor.

"They would reach out and start talking to the dog," Ewing said. "Very specific things that you are looking for (in) cognitive therapy. They would say things like, 'What a beautiful white dog. What beautiful white fur he has. Isn’t he a big dog? What’s his name?' Those are very cognitive actions. It’s what you want to see in someone whose got Alzheimer’s or other dementias."

Ewing said they saw this difference in memory-care residents who rarely talk or have trouble recognizing objects or people. He said when they have this confusion, they can get easily irritated.

That’s when Doc goes into action.

"When a resident is agitated or upset, we can bring Doc into the scenario and they will immediately calm down and communicate with the dog," Ewing said. "Pet, stroke, love on the dog."

Over the course of a couple successful months, Franklin Park added three more Great Pyrenees therapy dogs at their facilities in other locations.

Doc does get time off from working. He goes next door to the assisted living unit at Franklin Park Alamo Heights to visit his girlfriend, Doodle, and other dog friends.

"He knows which apartments they live in," Ewing said. "He knows how to open the door. The residents don’t mind him visiting."

About the Author:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.