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'Everybody loves the dog': Seniors residence's four-legged staff member warming hearts

His name is Henry.

Henry is a two-year-old black Labrador Retriever who works at the Journey Club in Mahogany’s Westman Village as its chief happiness officer.

He started at the facility in February and has been a hit with the seniors who live there.

"We wanted to do something different for our residents," said Jennifer Fulkerth, executive director.

"We wanted to bring something that would make it feel a little bit more like a home for them so we wanted to do something unique and that was bringing Henry in and everybody loves the dog."

Fulkerth says Henry regularly makes the rounds in the facility, walking the hallways and seeing residents.

But he excels in the recreation activities, where he joins morning exercise, bingo and happy hour.

"It makes me really proud to be able to bring something so unique to their lives," she said.

"One of my favourite things is when (people are) bringing friends and family and they say, 'This is our dog, Henry, meet Henry,' so that's been really special to see."

In the evenings, Henry goes home with a maintenance staff member.

But when he arrives for work, he teams up with Jillian Manjares, the Journey Club's recreation director.

"He's a little princess, he is a little diva," she said.

"He brings so much joy to our residents and that's what makes him unique, so during exercise, when our residents are getting tired, he also lets us know that they're getting tired and that we all need a little break."

Manjares says Henry received his two years of training in Edmonton from Aspen Service Dogs Inc. before arriving at the Journey Club.

She and a few staff members were also trained by the organization in what Henry's abilities are.

"He brings them so much joy. It (makes them) feel like they're at home," she said.

"Lots of our residents had dogs and seeing Henry, it feels like it's their dog, so every day, they're asking for Henry."

Henry wears a vest while he's at work so it's clear he's on the clock.

His calm demeanour makes him approachable to anyone who is in need of a little four-legged companionship.

"Even when we bring him to our memory care unit, sometimes they're having a rough day but they will let Henry know and he just calms them down and he's great," said Manjares.

Manjares says some residents are guarded about their lives before moving into the Journey Club but open up to Henry.

"They tell Henry a lot more stuff than they tell me," said Manjares.

"For example, there's a gentleman that moved in and I asked, 'What do you like to do for fun?' He tells me he likes golfing but then he opens up when he sees Henry that, 'I used to have a dog, I used to go to Palm Springs and the dog came with me and this and that.' It's the stuff I'd like to know."

Penny Jennett has lived at the club for more than three years and enjoys spending time with Henry.

"If you're coming out and you're not feeling as good as you think and he comes down the hall, you can't help but smile," she said.

"The residents try to have the best health we can, both physical and mental, and the first thing you see when you go down and see him, you begin to smile and that helps."

Henry typically works five days a week.

Just like other staff members, he takes breaks to get some fresh air while he's on duty.

"He usually does like a nine-to-five, so a full eight hours," said Manjares.

"However, he's the only staff member that has a nap time in the afternoons."

Henry turns three in October and staff are already starting to plan a birthday party for him.

All the residents will be invited. Top Stories

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