Beloved Pets Return for Dog Days of Summer

Dog days

Upon entering St. John’s Home, one often encounters things not typically expected when walking into a traditional skilled nursing facility. There are planters on every windowsill, sounds of children laughing in the hallways, and music playing in the distance. All of these aspects are part of the Eden Alternative philosophy that St.  John’s Home incorporates into elders’ daily routines. Another aspect of the Eden Alternative philosophy that is clearly incorporated into the culture at St. Johns:  Animals.

Dogs are seen on a regular basis at St. John’s Home. Individually, family members and staff members are allowed to bring in their pets as frequently as they choose to visit with the elders.  As part of the 2nd Annual Dog Days of Summer, many of these dogs that have visited the Home throughout the year gathered all together for a social event on July 22, which provided fun for both dogs and humans alike. The event hosted 10 dogs in the courtyard for food, music, and a lot of “cuddling.”


dog and elder

“The event provides a platform for an experience that everyone beyond just the elders can be involved in. Staff and family members can bring their dogs in for elders to enjoy, which creates a great social experience for everyone to engage in” says Tracy Koflanovich. Koflanovich is the practice partner of therapeutic recreation, the department that spearheads this unique event. Koflanovich says that the event was created with the culture of St John’s community in mind.

Dog Days of Summer is back again for a second year after last year’s great success. “Elders were waiting outside in the hallway to be able to see the dogs. That’s how great of a response we had last year,” says Holly Powell, a recreation therapist at the Home and one of the organizers of the event.  Powell believes that a major contributor to the event’s popularity throughout the community is the opportunity for staff, family members, and elders to connect over a common bond with animals.

While the Dog Days of Summer provides an experience for the elders of St. John’s to enjoy visiting with many pets at once, dogs and other animals play a role in the St. John’s community on a daily basis as well. “The relationship between our elders and animals is a connection we try to maintain here at St. John’s,” Tracy Koflanovich explains.  “There are some elders who don’t seem to engage in other activities as well as they do when they can have that animal on their lap. When they can hold and pet a dog, it provides that physical memory of past animals they may have owned or had a relationship with.”

“Embracing and celebrating life’s experiences” is the concluding line of St. John’s mission statement. That philosophy can be seen throughout many facets of the St John’s community.  An event like Dog Days of Summer provides a platform for the specific life experience of owning a pet to continue during an elder’s time at St. John’s.

View the photo gallery from the event:


dog friends

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