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posted: 7/2/2011 6:00 AM

Tiny pug makes patients smile

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  • Allie snuggles with North Adams Home Special Care Unit resident Mary Ellen Martin in Mendon, Ill.

    Allie snuggles with North Adams Home Special Care Unit resident Mary Ellen Martin in Mendon, Ill.
    Michael Kipley/The Quincy Herald-Whig

By Rodney Hart
The Quincy Herald-Whig

MENDON, Ill. -- The North Adams Home has gone to the dogs.

Well, Allie the dog, anyway.

Allie is a gentle black pug who wins hearts and soothes the Mendon nursing home's residents on a daily basis. Less than a foot tall and 18 pounds, Allie roams the hallways with her owner, Stevie Ensminger, the activities director in the Special Care Unit where many Alzheimer's residents live.

"If they are restless, Allie seems to calm them down," says North Adams Home Administrator Robyn Johnson. "You should see her when she goes down the hallway. The regular residents here just love her."

Allie is 5 years old and was "hired" in April, the same time Ensminger got her job at the home. Ensminger has had Allie for about four years and recalls the time Allie went to Georgia with Ensminger's fiancee.

"She was there for about seven months and the day I got there, she was attached to my hip," Ensminger says. "I haven't spent more than three days apart from her since. If I go somewhere, she goes with me."

Allie spends much of her day in the SCU lounge. She will climb up on couches and snuggle next to residents, and she loves to be scratched behind the ears.

"A lot of them here (in the SCU) have had pets at home," says SCU Director Todd Breuer. "Allie makes them feel a lot more comfortable."

Allie obeys simple commands from Ensminger and seems to crave the attention from the residents.

"She's a smaller dog and less intimidating. She doesn't jump and she's not a licker -- well, she might sneak in a kiss once in a while," says Ensminger, who has two other pugs named Chewey and Yoda. "She's very relaxed. Even those who are afraid dogs, they aren't afraid of her."

It can take 10 minutes or longer for Ensminger and Allie to walk down a hallway in the 92-bed facility. The little canine likes to stop in front of doorways, and the residents frequently call out to her and give her a pet.

One of Allie's favorite things to do is to scoot into the office for Director of Nursing Lisa Bohan and Assistant Director of Nursing Kathy Archambo. They both have dog treats in their desks and Allie is never denied when politely requesting a snack.

North Adams Home and Ensminger are working to get Allie officially certified as a therapy dog. Allie already passed her Quincy Kennel Club's Canine Good Citizen test with flying colors.

Ensminger says having Allie at work makes things better for the residents and for the staff.

"They all want to see her," Ensminger says.