Bringing joy to others

Memphis, handler visit nursing homes in Southern?Tier

Submitted Photo Pictured is Memphis. Memphis is a trained and certified dog who visits nursing homes to create smiles free of charge with his handler Thomas Kuhs.

PERRYSBURG — Thomas G. Kuhs and his canine companion, Memphis, are making area residents smile in a unique way.

No, Memphis is not a circus dog that does tricks at halftime of sporting events, but Memphis and Kuhs are a registered dog and handler team and visit nursing homes in the Southern Tier, creating happiness for those who may be restricted to a nursing home..

Kuhs took Memphis to Phillips Command Dogs in Olean, where the canine was trained in obedience and therapy. The training was not only for Memphis, but for Kuhs.

“The dog’s 20 percent of the training, the human is 80 percent,” Kuhs said.

To receive certification, Kuhs and Memphis took three test visits to two different homes in Olean, where after, they earned registration to the National Alliance of Service Dogs. Kuhs is also allowed to enter state buildings under the state Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities, or OPWDD which recently used to be the OMRDD.

Currently, the duo visits the Gowanda Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and the town of Chaffee’s, in Erie County Jennie B. Richmond Nursing Home. Kuhs noted that Memphis makes connections with those in nursing homes very well due to the unique relationships that man and dog have.

“You can take like an Alzheimer’s patient that maybe is not responding and doesn’t talk,” Kuhs said. “… You take a dog up to them and let them see the dog, sometimes they will speak, they will reach down and pet the dog and smile. And even talk to them at times.”

Trained dogs can even help make some vocal when they haven’t spoken to others.

“There is one time … in the memory unit at Eden Heights in Olean, the (patient) hadn’t talked in a very long time. No response from him at all. They brought a dog in with him and he actually started petting the dog and talking like nothing was wrong. The one nurse came down and said, ‘This is unbelievable.'”

Kuhs pulled all the strings to get Memphis qualified and registered to help others. The selfless action was aimed with purpose.

“I do it because whatever you do on this earth, echoes through all eternity,” Kuhs said. “If you can do one small thing to help out somebody less fortunate, or somebody who is having trouble, that is what you do. It’s a pretty small price to pay to put a smile on somebody’s face because, I’ll tell you, the nursing homes, they will break your heart when you go in there. It’s the least you can do for fellow man.”

Kuhs is open to having more visitors for Memphis and would provide the service free. Contact him at 353-3045. Once he knows where to go, he can file for the forms to have Memphis enter the facility then Memphis can have another friend.

Twitter: @Kuczkowski95