Therapy dog brightens the day for area residents during her visits

Residents at the Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation Community received some pre-Fourth of July excitement and blast of bright pink and purple colors from “Bessie,” a cherished therapy dog that has visited hundreds of people in the hospital, nursing homes, and school classrooms.
A Great Pyrenees, Bessie is owned by her handler, Al Bolmowski, a Grayling Charter Township resident.
Bolmowski discovered two years ago that Bessie had a knack working with people and kids to help brighten their days. 
“I just realized that she needed to so something like this,” he said.
Bessie was certified through Therapy Dogs International at Pine Meadows Dog Training Course in South Boardman. The course taught her to greet people, interact with children, and to not take treats from people that offer them to her.
Once Bolmowski places a red bandanna around Bessie’s neck, she knows it’s time to go visit senior citizens, hospital patients, and children.
Regular visits include The Brook of Grayling, the Crawford Continuing Care Center, Mercy Hospital Grayling, and the Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation Community. 
“I enjoy it. It feels like it’s our calling for me and her both,”  Bolmowski said. “We have a great time doing it and she loves the people and the kids.”
At the nursing homes, Bessie provides a companion to those who miss being with their pets.
“It really cheers them up,” Bolmowski said.  
Kayla Cousins, the activities director for Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation Community, said the residents look forward to weekly visits with Bessie.
“They love it,” she said. “It brightens their day. They love her.”
Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation Community resident Mike Hoban said Bessie is simply beautiful.
“She’s just so pretty and you can pet her,” he said. 
Sharon and Bob Tiffin, who also reside in the Grayling Nursing and Rehabilitation Community, said visits from Bessie warms their hearts.
“I think she’s really warm and friendly with the residents and they really relate to her,” Sharon said. “They love to pet her and that’s good. Touch is good.”
For the 2016-17 school year, Bessie and Bolmowski added school visits into the mix, visiting the kindergartners in  Sarah Thomas’ classroom. The children laid with Bessie on a rug and practiced their reading skills. 
“It really helped the kids, bringing them out of their shell and reading the books,” Bolmowski said.
Bessie and Bolmowski are often greeted by area residents and children when they take walks throughout the community.
“It kind of breaks things up for her,” Bolmowski said.
Last week, Jodi Potter, the victims rights advocate for the Crawford County Prosecutor’s Office, met Bessie and inquired about visiting children at the courthouse.
“We’re going to hook something up with her possibly,” Bolmowski said.
Bolmowski credits Missy Plauman, the owner of the Pet Spa in Frederic, for getting Bessie prepared for their steady schedule for visits to senior citizens and children.
“She is a wonderful groomer to be able to keep her looking like this with the pink and long hair and bows in her hair,” Bolmowski  said.  “People really get a kick out of it.”
Bessie has been recognized by the American Kennel Club and Therapy Dogs International for her visits to residents and students in the community.
Businesses and organizations, who would like to learn more about Therapy Dogs International and Bessie, can contact Bolmowski at (989) 390-7736. 

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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