UGA Grad Student Shares Pets With Group Homes Virtually
Kim Wolf cannot see her grandmother in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After canceling a trip to Maryland to see her, Wolf sought another way to spend time with her.
Wolf is pursuing master’s degrees in social work and public health at the University of Georgia. She has spent more than 15 years working with older adults and their caregivers, and an idea to visit her grandma came from a Zoom meeting with one of her patients.
While she was in the middle of her virtual meeting, Wolf’s pit bull, Rosalynn Carter, hopped on her lap for some attention.
“As soon as they saw her, other people started holding up their pets too,” said Wolf in an interview with UGA Today.“At one point, the screen was just a bunch of people holding up their pets.”
Seeing her patients light up at the sight of her dog gave Wolf the idea to use Zoom for virtual pet visits at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
She decided that her grandmother’s facility, Genesis Multi-Medical, was the perfect place to try her idea since they were used to seeing therapy animals weekly before the pandemic.
Wolf contacted the Animal Farm Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit dog rescue that trains their dogs to become free service dogs for people in need. The nonprofit was happy to help by providing dogs as well as cats, horses, goats and cows for the virtual visit.
The test visit at Genesis was a success.
Genesis Activities Director Roya Najafali-Brooks told UGA Today that she could see the excitement in the eyes of her residents when they saw the pets on screen.
“Pets seem to bring them much joy when in the building, so with the current situation, it is a great opportunity for them to be able to still have this pet interaction,” Najafali-Brooks said.
After seeing the excitement that the virtual visit brought to the residents at Genesis. Wolf teamed up with the AFF to establish Pets Together.
This new program provides more virtual pet visits to people in group homes, home alone, or in other healthcare settings who are unable to get out much because of health reasons. On the about page of the Pets Together website, the AFF and Wolf said they will continue the program after the pandemic is over.
“Being able to do something that helps other people is awesome, but I get as much out of this as they do,” Wolf said. “And I think Rosalynn enjoys it too.”