Dog volunteering helps patients, owner’s family


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When Dakota enters a room, faces light up and smiles form.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/12/2011 (4112 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Dakota enters a room, faces light up and smiles form.

A volunteer at Deer Lodge Centre, the 10-year-old Alaskan malamute happily makes rounds once each week, socializing with residents living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Three years ago, her owner, Jeannette Bodnar, decided she wanted to get involved as a volunteer. A stay-at-home mom at the time, she wanted a reason to get out of her house. When she found out about the pet program at Deer Lodge Centre, she knew that Dakota would be a perfect fit.

“I was just looking for something that would fit our family and I saw this for a position. I thought ‘Wow — she loves people so much and she’s really calm,'” remembered Bodnar, a 32-year-old mother to two young boys.

“A lot of that puppy is gone and she’s calm about it all. She loves attention. She smiles a bit.”

She adds that many of the Deer Lodge residents love animals and had pets throughout their lives before entering the hospital.

“A lot of people here had to leave their pets behind when they came in here and I can’t imagine — that’s your family member. Maybe it went into rescue and maybe they never got to see them again,” Bodnar said.

Not only does Dakota help to fill that void, but her interaction with the residents also helps them to communicate. Bodnar, who is currently studying at the University of Winnipeg, said the benefits are immediately obvious.

“Not everyone is able to communicate through words, and I think animals really have a way of overcoming that boundary,” she explained. “They’re all about energy. I think there’s something to be said about it — there’s this connection.”

But she is also quick to point out that the residents aren’t the only ones to benefit. Bodnar said volunteering has not only gotten her out of the house, giving her something meaningful to do, but also given her the opportunity to teach her two sons, Malikie, 7, and Lars, 9, about giving back. Both boys, on occasion, volunteer with her at Deer Lodge. She said both were proud to receive official volunteer badges.

“It gives them the knowledge that you can find happiness through something other than video games or gifts or monetary things,” she said, adding it has also helped them learn how to communicate more clearly.

Bodnar said the volunteer position has also been great for Dakota, who was adopted from a rescue agency just months before becoming a volunteer.

“I think it helps her a lot too. Everyone needs a purpose — even a dog. She gets crazy excited walking through the door. She’s just on key when she’s here and then she goes home and sleeps all afternoon,” said Bodnar, laughing. “We adopted her when she was older already. She was older and looking for a place and then she came heren I think it’s kind of serendipitous that she ended up volunteering here.”

If you would like more information about volunteering at Deer Lodge Centre, please call (204) 831-2541. You can also learn more online at

Volunteers are required in a number of areas, including helping with meals, tending at Chad’s Bar and operating the gift shop.


If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Erin Madden at

The following is a list of volunteer opportunities advertised in the Winnipeg area. For more information about these listings, please contact the person/organization directly. You may also call (204) 477- 5180, ext. 230, to set up an appointment to see an interviewer at Volunteer Manitoba. Email or visit the website for other available volunteer opportunities.


IRCOM is currently recruiting mentors to work with newcomer youth and provide support in the areas of education, development of positive social relationships and settlement into their new homes. Mentors will be required to assist the youth with homework two times per week as part of IRCOM’s after-school homework club. Homework will take place at IRCOM House as part of regular programming. Mentors will also be required to plan and participate in a social activity with the youth once per month. This activity could be an event such as a hockey game, a trip to a museum or a toboggan hill or something lower-key, such as going to the Y for a swim. Mentors will be given an honorarium of $100 per month. A commitment of one year is required and a contract to this effect will be signed. Call Erin at 943-8765, ext. 23, or email


St. Boniface Hospital needs volunteers to act as hospitality hosts for their emergency department to welcome visitors and patients and provide directions as necessary, provide wheelchairs if required, notify the staff of any medical or urgent situation in the waiting room, verify with staff whether patients can receive visitors and escort visitors to patients. Call Gisele at 237-2020 or email

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