Faces light up when Winston Allemeier steps into The Edwin Morgan Center.
Hands reach out to him for hugs and grown men and women start making kissy noises. He’s a favorite visitor at the Center.
Winston —a furry, black lab mix —is one of Scotland Health Care System’s volunteers.
His owner, Paul Allemeier, director of service excellence at the health care system, clips Winston’s volunteer badge to his collar as they prepare for their weekly visits to the Morgan Center.
Allemeier says the five-year old rescue dog has the perfect disposition and personality to visit the residents at the Morgan Center. His shiny, soft coat and bright expressive eyes draw people to him. It’s almost as if Winston understands when residents reach out to hug him and whisper in his ear. The warmth of an animal’s body and licks on the hand often offer a boost to someone who may not be feeling up to par.
“Winston came to me when he was about nine months old,” Allemeier said. “When I came to Scotland Health Care System last year, I discovered that we have a pet policy which would allow me to bring him to visit the residents. In fact, regulatory agencies actually encourage pet visits.”
A visit to the Morgan Center every Sunday requires a huge time commitment from Allemeier and Winston.
“We visit for 1-2 hours each Sunday but the whole process of getting him ready each week takes a lot longer,” Paul said. “Our routine starts early on Sunday morning with his bath. He loves water so he offers no argument; he simply walks into the shower and waits for me to turn on the water to bathe him. Because of his long coat he gets towel dried, blow dried, brushed, and more blow drying. I keep all of his vaccinations up to date so no one has to worry about his cleanliness. He enjoys the Sunday routine of his visits as much as the Morgan Center residents do. He gets quite excited when we get into the car and start to the Center. I believe he even recognizes the route we drive to the Center.”
Recently several residents posed for pictures with Winston.
Eighty-year old Betty Lau had a long and fulfilling nursing career.
“I graduated from Flora MacDonald College and the Medical College of Virginia and worked as head nurse at several hospitals.”
Four years ago, Lau returned to her roots in Maxton, where she was born. Her recent hip surgery required short-term rehabilitation at the center.
Lau said her many years of nursing has brought her in contact with therapy animals visiting hospitalized patients.
“I know firsthand that it can be extremely important for patients to have that animal contact. I’ve worked at centers where cats were in residence and everyone was fine with that. No one caught anything from the animals,” she said. “Patients love to have something warm and sweet and furry that they can pet and touch. Many times patients can relate to animals when they can’t relate to humans.”
Lau described Winston as loving.
“I’m sure he has had many secrets whispered into his ears by the residents at the Morgan Center,” she said. “He’s very gentle and he loves everyone. He meets the emotional needs of many patients. During my stay here he was a good friend and I for one am so happy that he could visit us at the Morgan Center. I think Winston is one of the most important executives here.”
Martha Sessoms of Richmond County has been a Morgan Center resident for over a year. She said every visit from Winston brightens her day.
“He makes me happy. I didn’t have a dog myself before I came here but other family members did so I am comfortable around dogs,” Sessoms said. “It brightens our day every Sunday when Winston comes in the door. I love giving him treats and petting him. He’s warm and lovable. When he comes to the Center it’s almost like family members coming to visit. He has a very expressive face and when he looks at you his love for people shows. He enjoys all the petting, hugs, kisses and treats we give him. He’s a very humble and very sweet dog.”
Retired school teacher Edna Hammonds came to The Edwin Morgan Center following a teaching career that spanned 25 years at the North Laurinburg, Pate Gardner and Laurel Hill schools.
“My teaching career ended when I got sick. But some of my students come to see me at the Morgan Center and I enjoy seeing them.”
When Winston visits Hammonds’ room, she invites him to sit in the rocking chair with her.
“Long before I came to the Morgan Center I had a dachshund but he was nothing like Winston,” she said. “I love it when Winston comes to visit. I have never known a dog to be so loving and so sweet. We all have fallen in love with him. I was sitting in my rocker and he came over and put his paws on my legs and looked at me like he was asking how I felt and could he sit with me. I enjoy having Winston kiss me and giving him hugs. My family can’t believe it when I tell them the dog kisses me. I can tell he enjoys coming here to see us as much as we enjoy seeing him every Sunday.”