Best Friends Forever
;;;; ;;;;;;;;;’; 82-year-old dad
doesn’t talk much anymore. But when
he sees his friend Earl, he immediately
“It was love at first sight,” Mikkelson
says of the relationship between her
father, John A. Gregory, who has Alzheimer’s disease, and Earl, his therapy
dog from Caregiver Canines, a nonprofit
based in Toms River.
Earl, a 5-year-old yellow Labrador
retriever, and his owner, Frank Pirozzi,
a retired Air Force mechanic who
lives in Brick Township, have visited
Gregory once a week at his home in
Brick since September. The dog and
his latest client have formed a special
bond; they even share a stately middle
“Earl loves his job,” says Pirozzi,
“He’s a natural.”
Earl, a rescue dog,
was adopted by
Pirozzi in 2013.
In addition to
Gregory, the pair
visits a local VA
hospital on a
lished in 2009,
Volunteers of Central Jer-
sey, which provides free
services to clients in
Ocean and Monmouth
medical transport, re-
spite care and telephone
check-ins. The Caregiver
Canines program—a service
for the homebound elderly or those
with memory loss—is unique because it
provides in-home visits.
“I was looking for a service that would
give my father something to look forward to in his own home,” says Mikkelson. Caregiver Canines was the right fit.
In fact, Danielle Maley, coordinator for Caregiver Canines, calls herself
“the matchmaker.” She visits clients at
home before matching them with one
of the organization’s specially trained
and certified dogs.
“Clients who haven’t communicated
in years suddenly become animated
when they are reminded of a favorite
pet,” says Maley.
To qualify, clients must be at least 60
years old and no longer driving. “The
dogs are trained to anticipate oncoming
wheelchairs, wobbly walkers and beeping medical devices,” says Maley.
The dogs also have an intuitive way
of making ailing seniors feel better—no
medicines or prescription required.
— Sharon Hazard
● PET THERAPY