Dog 's love is home's medicine

FREMONT, NE -- Wanted: resident pet. Must be lovable, tough, gentle, sensitive to needs of others. Responsible to many masters. Must enjoy lots of people contact. Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. Room, board, tender loving care included.

Samantha did not apply for this job, but it is hers and she loves it. Residents and staff of the local Arbor Manor nursing home are equally pleased with Samantha, or Sammie, a 7-year-old yellow Labrador retriever.

''She has such a gentle nature,'' said Cindy Crull, activities director at Arbor Manor.

After being checked by a veterinarian for health and temperament, Sammie, who was donated by Denise Jarosz, came to Arbor Manor in November. The dog quickly adapted to the facility's routine, learning which residents liked animals, had treats in their room, were likely to give her a scratch or hug, and needed her to climb onto their beds.

Rita Smith, assistant activities director, said Arbor Manor residents benefit from the dog's company.

Harriett Deeds, a resident and animal lover, is bedridden and says little. But her face lights up and she speaks soothing words when Sammie jumps on her bed. Deeds' bed is one of the few Sammie climbs on, and she does so without hesitation, lying gently across Deeds' lap.

''Sammie seems to know which patients require what care,'' Smith said.

Whenever Pat Lott, 80, sees Sammie coming down the hallway she calls out, ''Grandma Pat loves you.''

Sammie responds quickly, accepting hugs and love from Lott.

Sammie gets a bath and shampoo once a month. For the holidays, the dog had her nails painted red and green along with the rest of the residents. Smith even made Sammie a special holiday costume.

Though she lives at Arbor Manor, Sammie is still a dog—a reminder of which she soon provided the staff. On Thanksgiving Day, the staff had a special dinner, and Sammie found a roaster of turkey unattended and helped herself. Now, the staff makes sure she sticks to dog food and biscuits.

Sammie has water dishes throughout the manor, and lets the staff know when she needs to make a trip into the courtyard. She sleeps in a kennel next to the nurse's station at night but is out and active with residents during the day.

Whether Sammie is making her rounds or taking a break, she won't have to worry about one thing: job security.