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Local dog providing stress relief to elderly during pandemic

Nico, the comfort dog goes to Greene Place senior living each week to see people at the facility. Source: (KOLN)
Nico, the comfort dog goes to Greene Place senior living each week to see people at the facility. Source: (KOLN)(KOLNKGIN)
Published: Mar. 29, 2020 at 7:20 PM CDT
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A dog ministry in Seward is providing people at Greene Place senior living stress relief with their comfort dog, Nico. He is a 3-year-old golden retriever who's been a comfort dog since he was about 16 months old.

Nico visits the Greene Place senior living facility every week. Nico is cared for by members of K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry; a national group with a branch in Seward.

With social distancing being a concern, the K-9 Comfort Dog Ministry had to change its plans for the time being. "We've tried to bring him and at least react with him through the window," Randy Newsome, Nico's owner said, "And at least get them to see him."

People at the senior facility said they love seeing Nico each week, even if it's through a window. "It boosts their mood," Greene Place communications manager said, "And you can tell they always have smiles on their faces when Nico comes."

For most service dogs, you are not allowed to touch them while working. But, for Nico, his owners encourage it. "If you read on Nico's vest," Newsome said, "Unlike most service dogs, it says please pet me and that's his job is to give people comfort." Handlers said petting Nico gives people stress relief and lowers their blood pressure.

While people at Greene Place can't interact with Nico, just seeing him each week is beneficial to them. "Visiting him through the windows just brings a familiarity to their week," Standley said, "Some consistency and of course a big smile on their face."

Handlers describe Nico as a gentle giant and a sweetheart. Before the pandemic began, Nico was going to four different schools and two different daycares a week. Newsome said children at these places, "Crawl all over him and pull his nose hairs and he doesn't care."

Anyone is welcome to see Nico, as long as you invite him. Nico is expected to turn 4-years-old April 2.

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