Gladys Swope was having a down day Thursday — until The Dude showed up.
Swope is 105 and she was getting over a nasty cold at her Des Moines apartment. Her chin was in the down position.
When The Dude, an almost 2-year-old Norwich terrier therapy dog trotted into the room, Swope perked up.
“He’s a sweet little guy,” Swope said after The Dude, who also goes by the name Dewey, hopped into the lap of his handler, Becca Parkins.
Parkins took Swope’s hand in hers and leaned in close. The Dude’s tongue rolled out of his mouth, his eyes eagerly watching the two women.
Parkins is a chaplain at Wesley Des Moines, a senior community. She and The Dude mostly visit residents receiving hospice care — people who are thought to have six months or less left to live.
Dogs like The Dude can brighten the days of people living with serious health problems or recovering from trauma.
“Dogs love people,” Parkins said. And it’s clear that people love The Dude.
As Parkins and The Dude made their way through the halls, elevators and reception areas at Wesley Thursday, it was hard to tell which one of them was more popular with residents and staff.
The Dude wears a vest with his alternate name Dewey on it as well as a patch that reads, “Therapy Dog, Please Pet Me.”
The Dude has gone through extensive training to earn that patch. Calmer than most dogs his age, he knows not to jump on people. Although he’s small he could still injure the facility’s frailer patients, Parkins said.
He’s been trained to be around walkers and wheelchairs and not step on oxygen tubes like the one that Swope uses.
“Good little Dewey, yes you are,” Swope said, petting him. “He wants to curl up and take a nap.”
Swope said that seemed like a good idea for her, as well.
Parkins, a Tacoma resident, has worked as a chaplain since 2000. She and the dude have been partners since he was six months old.
Although he answers to both “The Dude” and “Dewey” neither are his given name. Officially, he’s known as Bunratty’s Royal Devil.
That’s the name he uses on his weekend job: show dog.
In January, The Dude scored the most points in his category at the Western Washington Winter Cluster dog show in Puyallup. This weekend he’s competing in the Seattle Kennel Club Dog Show at CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle.
If he does well and becomes a champion, “There’s a potential he could be a father someday,” Perkins said.
She co-owns The Dude with his breeders, Ronald and Estelle Crawford.
Dog shows, with their masses of people and canines, inform his day job, Parkins said.
“He’s always up for adventure…the show is fun for him. He likes that kind of thing.”
Win or lose, The Dude will continue with his Monday-Friday job at Wesley. He has abilities that humans don’t.
“Some people who don’t connect with people very well will still connect with a dog,” Parkins said.
One resident, a formerly homeless man, had trouble relating to people, Parkins recalled.
“He would yell profanities and want everybody out of his room,” she said.
But when Parkins came in with The Dude he changed, holding the little dog’s paws in his hands.
“He’d just look at him and The Dude would look at him back, right in the eye,” she said.
They stayed that way for 20 minutes.
Often, a therapy dog will bring back fond memories of pets.
“Most people have been around a dog at some point in their lives,” she said.
And a dog is a novelty at a senior community.
“When you get to be that age you don’t often see dogs or children,” Parkins said.