Lola, A Celebrity Therapy Dog

NANCY RUBIN STUART PHOTO Lola, a therapy dog who visits nursing homes, at attention.

Lola, a therapy dog who visits nursing homes, at attention.


Lola has strawberry blond hair, limpid eyes, a sleek body, and a gentle manner that instantly wins admirers. But if you’re thinking she’s the kind of woman you’d like to date, you’re barking up the wrong tree. That’s because Lola is a nine-year old golden retriever and therapy dog owned by optometrist and O.D. Dr. Gregory Bodrie, whose office is on Route 6A in Bourne.

Lola regularly charms patients at Dr. Bodrie’s office and on Wednesdays accompanies him on rounds at the Cape Heritage Nursing Home and Rehab Center of Sandwich or one of the other six nursing facilities where he examines patients on a rotating basis. These include the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital of Cape Cod in East Sandwich; the Epoch Nursing Home and Rehab Center of Harwich; the Royal Megansett Nursing Home and Rehab Center of North Falmouth; the Life Care Center of Plymouth; the Plymouth Rehab and Health Care Center; and the Southpointe Nursing Home and Rehab Center of Fall River.

NANCY RUBIN STUART PHOTO Dr. Bodrie and Lola at Cape Heritage nurses' station.

Dr. Gregory Bodrie and Lola at Cape Heritage nurses’ station.

“Studies indicate that people whose health is compromised benefit from visits with pets. We’ve certainly seen that with Lola whose arrival seems to please and delight patients,” said Dr. Bodrie.

The concept of having Lola accompany Dr. Bodrie on Wednesday rounds began when she was a puppy. “Lola  was a sweet dog from the start. And we immediately noticed that when patients came to our offices, many of them vision-impaired or elderly, they enjoyed petting Lola and found that comforting. So did the children we treat too. That made me think, why not give her something to do all day?”

The something that Dr. Bodrie had in mind was to meet the requirements for Lola to be registered with Therapy Dogs International (TDI), the largest of the therapy dog organizations. Founded in 1976 in Flanders, New Jersey, TDI is a volunteer organization dedicated to regulating, testing and registration of therapy dogs and their volunteer handlers for the purpose of visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other relevant organizations. According to 2012 figures (the latest ones available from TDI) some 224,750 dog/handler teams have registered and the numbers keep growing.

NANCY RUBIN STUART PHOTO The dog therapy label.

The dog therapy label.

Registration, however, can be a daunting process. Not only must the dog be trained to be obedient and placid in all circumstances but must pass a strict series of criteria proving it will serve as a reliable companion to those in poor or fragile health. Among those criteria are thirteen rigorous tests during which the dog is tested by examiners. For example, the dog must remain attentive when entering the door of an unfamiliar building; walk with his handler serenely as he passed a treat or food; remain calm in unpredictable circumstances such as seeing someone on crutches; walk attentively through a row of excited children and/or giggling teenagers, and gently engage when brought in contact with a rambunctious dog.

“Lola was amazing. During all the tests, she remained calm and walked through them quiet as a stone. It was uncanny but then again she seems to understand a lot of English. Somehow that day, she acted as if she knew she was being tested,” recalled Dr. Bodrie, who spent many months training her before the TDI examination date. “As a result she passed the examination the first time. Not many dogs do that.”

NANCY RUBIN STUART PHOTO Dr. Bodrie and Lola making their rounds.

Dr. Gregory Bodrie and Lola making their rounds.

After winning the TDI designation as a Therapy Dog, Lola began charming, soothing and delighting patients at the six nursing homes where Dr. Bodrie examines patients. On a recent visit to the Cape Heritage Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, patients and nurses welcomed her with excitement, some calling her by name, others laughing and petting her as she sweetly approached patients in wheelchairs and beds.

“It makes a lot of sense to have a therapy dog like Lola visit patients here,” said Paul Marchwat, Administrator at the Cape Heritage Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. “She’s calm, playful and makes everyone feel relaxed Many people here used to have dogs when they were younger so Lola reminds them of those times earlier in their lives. She provides a kind of homey feeling for them. It’s no wonder the residents love her!”

Those of us living in the 21st century sometimes feel it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but not those patients lucky enough to know a certain canine named Lola. If only the rest of us could bone up on her manners, what a peaceful world this would be.
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