We like Ike: Therapy dog brings comfort

Published 10:31 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

BEN HILLYER | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Ike, a wire-haired terrier, stops for a resident’s affection in the hallway of Adams County Nursing Center Tuesday.

NATCHEZ — One full-time visitor at Adams County Nursing Center is undergoing a classic rehabilitation method called tender loving care.

Ike has survived the streets, a broken leg and the worst of circumstances to achieve a real dog’s life.

Kim Lindsey, Ike’s owner and assistant director of nursing at the center, said Ike’s photo and story on the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society website got her attention.

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Lindsey said Ike was picked up in the street where she suspects he was probably hit by a car, which broke his leg.

Roberta Dyer nuzzles Ike’s neck; Ike was quick to return the favor.

The wire-haired terrier’s big, wet eyes, warm tongue and compact size makeup a furry package that is hard to resist.

“His broken leg was in bad shape,” Lindsey said. “Kathy Fitch from the humane society said Ike is a true rags-to-riches story.”

A pin was used to set Ike’s tiny leg.

Though Ike hardly has use of his back left leg, the residents put him through rigorous rehabilitation exercises, like scratching his chin to initiate the immediate pumping of his sore leg.

Ike does not seem to be in pain. Lindsey said she was told that Ike would cry if he was hurting, but he hasn’t let out a yelp.

“Residents feel like he is their little project,” Lindsey said. “They are conscious of his injury and are very careful with him.”

Betty Young, a resident at Adams County Nursing Center, is known as one of Ike’s “favorite laps.”

“Every day that Ike’s not with me, he comes looking for me,” Young said. “He’s a special little dog. And he likes to be petted everywhere.”

Ike is free explore the center and visit with residents under supervision, with exception of the dining room.

Frances Cameron takes her turn showing affection to Ike as he looks over to Dyer.

“Ike is something for the residents to love on and talk to,” Lindsey said. “That is special to the residents who don’t have a lot of visitors. They look for him and start smiling right off when he gets to work, and that’s good for anyone.”

Lindsey believes that Ike’s presence in the center has therapeutic value.

“We consider Ike a special needs dogs, and here he is combined with a special needs family,” Lindsey said. “Ike can’t get around as well as other dogs, just like some residents can’t get around as well as other people. He fits right in.”

Roberta Dyer, a resident, said she had a poodle for 12 years that was by her side constantly. She said she never got over her dog’s death, but Ike is a reminder and comfort to her.

“He’s so sweet,” Dyer said. “Very calm and easy. We call him ‘Adams County Ike.’ I just love him.”

An employee at the center, Loretta Sanford, said she thinks having Ike around has a positive effect on residents.

“People interact with him,” Sanford said. “And sometimes residents who might not want to talk to other people will talk to him.”

Lindsey said she hopes Ike, who is estimated to be approximately 3 years old, will have a long career at the center.

A typical weekday for Lindsey and Ike starts with Ike itching to get to work.

“He is anxious and ready to get here,” Lindsey said.

“He greets the residents in the lobby as soon as he comes in, and then stops in the offices to say hello. For the rest of the day he goes from room to room and lap to lap.”

Lindsey said the nursing center’s administrators were very open to the idea of having Ike around the building, as long as she is responsible for him.

While Ike comes across as having a docile personality, he does have a slight dark side. Ike retaliated against Lindsey for leaving him home from work one day.

“He tore up my kitchen,” Lindsey said. “He is so used to being with us, and his routine, he just couldn’t take being left at home. He is so excited to get to work that he beats me to the car in the mornings.”