Angus’ nose is usually wet, his tongue always seems to be hanging out the side of his mouth and his coat is quite hairy. On top of that, he is not one for many words. But somehow he manages to get people to smile and talk to him.
The 8-year-old border collie is one of three dogs owned by Greenville’s Judy Nortier that occasionally visits residents at retirement facilities, working as a “therapy dog,” helping people through trying days by entertaining them with tricks or just by listening with a wagging tail.
Nortier, a retired nurse aid, has been working with therapy dogs for more than 30 years. Having worked with West Michigan Therapy Dogs, based in Grand Rapids, she managed to bring two loves of her’s together — helping the elderly and playing with her dogs.
“It’s a proven fact that those who have pets live longer,” Nortier said. “A dog helps lower your blood pressure, gets you out walking, improving your health all around. For those who are older, it’s also something to care and nuture.”
Nortier has had Angus since he was born. She said he learned a lot of tricks easily, including patty-cake and walking through her legs as she walks and finding the a specific toy tool hidden in the room.
“Border collies are one of the smartest breeds,” she said. “Angus, like every border collie, likes to keep his mind thinking so he’s always up for tricks, especially taking turns playing catch with the frisbee with people.”
Nortier also has two Bichon Frises, Annie and Doogie, both 12 years old. Annie was a stray at 8 months old before Nortier took her in. Through the WMTDA, Annie helped young children with reading disabilities, offering her company while children read to her.
Doogie was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip.
“He has a special bond with people because he was hand-fed since birth so he is real people-friendly,” Nortier said. “He has a huge heart for people.
Doogie’s job was to visit hospice patients, going room to room to say hello.
“He’d do it all by himself,” Nortier said. “People would be singing to him and telling him their fears. He’s done a lot of special things for people.”
STILL CREATING SMILES
Nortier said her dogs are now “retired,” however, she and her four-legged friends still make visits once a month to Green Acres Retirement Living in Greenville and Rest Haven nursing home in Grand Rapids.
“The residents of Green Acres look forward to the regular pet visits that Judy and her dogs provide,” said Sue Hoeflinger, Green Acres administrator. “Angus, Doogie and Annie help lift spirits, stimulate conversation and bring back memories.”
Nortier said she often has residents talk to her about their the pets they used to have and having Angus, Doogie and Annie visit makes them reminisce about their own pets, bringing great memories to mind.
“A lot of people had to give up their dogs (when they movied in to a retirement home),” she said.
For the residents of Green Acres and Rest Haven, enjoying the company of these three dogs is always a welcomed visit.
“We are blessed to have Judy and her ‘friends,’’ Hoeflinger said.
Nortier and Angus will be the featured show at this year’s Danish Festival Doggie Fashion Show Sunday, Aug. 19, an event that Angus has won the last two consecutive years.
Angus will be not compete but will be a special guest at the event and Nortier will be one of the judges.
The Doggie Fashion Show is at 3 p.m. at Greenville Community Center at 900 E. Kent Road in Greenville.