Mattie Anderson went to work for the entire first year of her life.

Mattie Anderson went to work for the entire first year of her life.
She’s a dog owned by Anne Anderson, director of social services and administration at Bethany Home in Lindsborg.
“Then liability rules changed. Animals that either weren’t owned by residents or weren’t licensed therapy or service animals were no longer allowed in the Home,” Anderson said. “I’m working on getting her registered as a therapy dog so she’ll be allowed to return with me. Therapy dogs carry insurance through the national organization and can’t be denied access.
“Animals make a place feel like home. For the residents, having therapy dogs on site is so critical for complete body/mind/spirit health.”
Her former dog, Poudre, went to work with Anderson for eight years until his death. Poudre broke through to residents who didn’t respond to staff or family members.
“When I’d do my rounds I learned you don’t sit across from the old farmers, you sit next to them. I’d set Poudre between us, and these guys would talk to the dog, not me. I could find out how they were doing, their state of mind, that sort of thing, because of Poudre.”
One instance stands out in Anderson’s memory.
“The nurse asked for Poudre to visit a woman here who suffered a stroke. He went in where she lay unresponsive and put his nose on her arm. She didn’t open her eyes but immediately began petting him.”
Anderson said some potential residents have said that if they couldn’t bring their pet, they weren’t moving in. She pointed to Earl Swenson and his cat, Lucky, as an example of how a pet helps with adjustment and meets psycho-social needs.
“When people move into a nursing facility, they give up a lot. There’s a grieving process. If they don’t have to give up their pet, that’s consoling. Earl’s cat, Lucky, also acts as an ice breaker for conversation with other residents, staff and visitors to the Home.”
Amy Hammer, licensed specialist clinical social worker at Prairie View, stumbled into her therapy relationship with no classes or particular mission.
“I’d just adopted my first dog, Sadie. She was cute and sweet and I thought, why not bring her into the office? The clients might like that.”
The very first client objected and Hammer took Sadie over to a co-worker’s office. After that, no one ever objected.
“For people who were nervous about talking to a social worker, Sadie was a distraction. Petting her calmed them down,” she said.
A local author has written a book about how the dogs in her life maintained her sanity. “Barking Bouys” is the memoir of a girl who copes with family dysfunction through the bond with her dog, Dukey. After Dukey dies, Talyah Kieterson sinks into despair. As an adult, she returns to forming bonds with dogs that keep her afloat amidst unrelenting family drama. The dogs help inspire Talyah to beat the odds of her past in a journey of endurance and hope. This book is available at The Bookshelf in McPherson or online at
Annette Karr adopted a purebreed poodle puppy named Wink. She was struck by the fact that because one eye was imperfect and needed to be removed, the dog no longer had monetary value to the breeder, who planned to dispose of him. This led Karr to write a book from Wink’s point of view, focusing on the thought that even though he is not perfect, he still has value.
Karr and Wink share this message wherever possible. Besides the book, there is the Wink Foundation, funded by the Friends of Wink, a Wink color book and a Facebook page. Karr’s car is a traveling advertisement with the message, “Think Wink! You’re worth a million!”
Karr and Wink visit nursing homes, schools, facilities for the mentally disabled, churches, groups and other organizations. They walk in parades and visit downtown stores. When invited to speak, Karr reads Wink’s story and then asks the group about it. Depending upon the demographic, Karr adjusts the message as needed, but the salient point “is always that we all have worth,” Karr said.
This message is especially important to those whose imperfections are more visible than most. Children who have disabilities of any kind, and especially the parents of those children, are taken with this message.
“They really get it,” Karr said. “They are seeking that acceptance for themselves, for their children. When people see Wink, they immediately love him. Our task is to help people translate that understanding of worth to others who may be different.”
Karr can be reached at 620-241-4532 or on Facebook at Wink the One-Eyed Wonder.