Pet therapy aiding residents of Freedom Village

La Mancha Animal Rescue ‘House Dogs’ get second life as volunteers

By Lauren Parker- Gill, Staff writer, The Times


Pet therapy has been shown to lift spirits, improve socialization and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression with the elderly. Photo courtesy of LaMancha Animal Rescue.

WEST BRANDYWINE – LaMancha Animal Rescue has been working with Freedom Village since March as part of a pet therapy program that was created to lift the spirits of their elderly residents of the dementia unit.

When Shannon Kline, an administrator of the skilled unit at Freedom Village, expressed interest in building a pet therapy program for the residents of the dementia unit, resident account manager Martha Bowman knew just who to contact. Bowman’s mother-in-law Heidi has been volunteering with LaMancha for several years and thanks to this connection, a partnership was born.

LaMancha Animal Rescue, located on 45 beautiful acres of land in East Fallowfield, was initially established in 2001 as an organization that rescued racehorses intended for the slaughterhouse. In 2003, the rescue expanded to include animals of all types. LaMancha now rescues dogs, cats, pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, peacocks and emus, and provides them with food, shelter, rehabilitation, medication and training in a safe environment.

Most dogs are rescued from high-kill shelters that unfortunately lack the funding to spay or neuter the animals and therefore do not put them up for adoption; they keep them until their stray hold is up and euthanize them, using inhumane methods such as heart stick injections, carbon monoxide or other gasses.

While most of the animals are put up for adoption, owner Dru Campbell occasionally chooses to keep those not suited for adoption due to temperament, age or even illness as “house dogs.” They will live out the rest of their lives at LaMancha, in the owners’ private home and have the freedom to roam the property. Adorned with collars, the house dogs usually volunteers and visitors as they arrive.


Chichi happily sat on one resident’s lap as Nanook and Bergy greet a group of residents during Lamancha’s twice weekly visits at Freedom Village. Photo courtesy of: Laida Negrin

Due to the nature of the program, LaMancha has carefully chosen six of the house dogs and approved them for visits to Freedom Village, based on their temperament and demeanor. Their names are Bergy, Nanook, Regan, Jake, Chichi and Red. Some are Great Pyrenees and the others are mixed breeds.

Each Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the volunteers of the pet therapy program arrive at LaMancha to prepare the dogs for their visit to Freedom Village, which includes brushing them, cleaning them up and giving them some fun accessories to wear. Depending on the number of volunteers, two or three dogs make the trip each week.

Due to the success of what initially began as visits to the dementia unit, the pet therapy program quickly evolved to include the skilled nursing, rehabilitation, memory care and assisted living units. All together, the volunteers and dogs now visit approximately 70 residents.

“The residents absolutely love having the dogs visit. Not only do they look forward to visits but also their spirits and moods are lifted even after they leave. Each resident feels a connection with at least one of the dogs.” Bowman said in an email.


A Great Pyrenees named Bergy from LaMancha Animal Rescue visits with a resident from Freedom Village, as part of the pet therapy program that began in March. Photo courtesy of: Laida Negrin.

One resident showed LaMancha volunteer, Virginia Lucas, a picture of her dog from years ago and shared her fond memories of the little dachshund that loved to play on the trampoline. Lucas happily listened to her, as the resident gently pet Bergy.

According to Therapy Dogs International, the physical benefits of pet therapy can lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, lessen physical pain and release endorphins for a calming effect. The benefits of mental health include lowering anxiety and depression, providing comfort, improving socialization and reducing feelings of isolation and boredom.

“We are so thankful for all that LaMancha does for our residents. This pet program means more to them than you will ever know.” Bowman stated.

Please visit if you’d like more information about LaMancha and the pet therapy program.

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