Therapy dog cheers up seniors struggling with memory loss

Seventy-five-year-old Geraldine Waller grew up in Bowman, where her best friends were her pets.

"I had a dog and I drove a pickup, and I just put him in the back with a chain," said Geraldine Waller, Country House resident.

Whenever therapy dog Morty comes to visit, she brings Waller memories that are hard to come by.

"She comes and sits down, and she'll lick your hand," said Waller.

Air Gustafson and her dog Morty are members of Pet Partners, a national nonprofit animal therapy organization.

The pair visits Country House Residence weekly, where residents struggle with dementia and Alzheimer's.

Gustafson said: "I know I'm a dog lover, but I did not know to the extent they actually bring to you on a daily basis. Just for a brief moment she entered my life, and I just thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if I could just share it?'"

Gustafson says Morty's presence helps spark intellectual and emotional conversations.

"Sometimes they don't remember me, but then they see Morty, and they say 'I used to have a dog', and then they start a conversation. And they, to me, seem to be more engaged mentally," said Gustafson.

Program Coordinator Britney Johnson says Morty is the highlight of the seniors' day when she visits.

"It just puts them in a way better mood. Just having that animal interaction, with this horrible disease, just having that animal come into country house just makes them a happier person," said Britney Johnson, Country House residence program coordinator

And for Waller, Morty's visit is her favorite part of the week.

The pair also works with students at Berg Elementary and Hagen Junior High during the school year.​