Today, I’d like to introduce you to a member of the Immanuel team you might not have met before. Her name is Sammy, and she works mostly in the Lodge at Buffalo Hill and the Immanuel Skilled Care Center. It’s safe to say that Sammy is the only member of the Immanuel team who’s been with us almost since she was born. If you’re wondering how that’s possible, it’s because Sammy is a goldendoodle. She turned seven last November, and she became part of the Immanuel family when some volunteers, led by Jim and Ron Pettis, purchased her for the organization when she was a newborn puppy.
I sat down with Tammy Miciewicz, recreation coordinator in the Lodge and Sammy’s chief handler, to talk more about the furriest member of the Immanuel team. I learned that Sammy isn’t the first goldendoodle Immanuel’s had. Before her, another goldendoodle, Fergie, had been part of the team. Fergie was donated by a community member who couldn’t take care of her anymore. When the first staff member who looked after her was no longer able to do so, the Miciewiczes took her home with them. So, when Fergie passed away and it was time for a new dog, it was natural that Sammy would make her home with them.
Sammy was born in Missoula in 2011. Immmanuel volunteers had noticed just how much of a difference Fergie made in the lives of residents in the Skilled Care Center so, when some time had passed after Fergie’s death, they urged Tammy and other recreation staff members to get a new dog. When they saw that a litter of goldendoodle pups had been born in Missoula, they took initiative and went down to meet them. The volunteers spent an entire day with the puppies, and Sammy was the one they felt had the best personality to work with residents. When they picked her up, they also brought her favorite blue bone toy. Tammy tells me it had belonged to the entire litter of puppies, but the volunteers noticed how much Sammy loved it, and they wanted to be sure she had it with her. They met Tammy in the Murdoch’s parking lot in Kalispell, and from that point on, Sammy had two homes: Immanuel and the Miciewiczes’.
At first, Sammy worked almost exclusively at the Skilled Care Center, including in the Bratsberg Dementia Unit (Tammy is a memory support specialist). These days, she spends most of her time with residents at the Lodge, Immanuel’s Assisted Living Memory Support community. She is an integral part of life there and is particularly good at calming residents who are having a difficult time. Sometimes petting a dog helps an emotional resident calm down. She provides a sense of safety and familiarity.
When she’s in the common spaces, Sammy goes from resident to resident, putting her head in each person’s lap in turn. The residents pet her and play with her ears, and Tammy notices that Sammy knows who likes her best and goes to them more often. She’s also good at getting the less responsive or social residents up and about. When Sammy goes into a resident’s room and engages with them there, they’ll often follow her out to the common spaces. Even if the resident just hovers at the edge of an activity and doesn’t really participate, it’s good for them to get out of their room, and Sammy seems to know it.
On her twice-weekly excursions to the Immanuel Skilled Care Center, Sammy plays much the same comfort and support role as she does at the Lodge. What I’ve noticed about her is that she always knows she has a job to do. While she’s generally a friendly dog who wants to stop and say hi to everyone, she knows she needs to get back to the residents. Even when she goes outside, she doesn’t linger. The residents are her main concern.
According to Tammy, Sammy takes a two-hour nap every day when she gets home from work. Then, she likes to run around the yard. While she isn’t fond of most toys, she still likes to play with the blue bone she brought with her from Missoula. Sometimes she’ll hide it or bury it—but she always finds it again. All in all, Sammy is a mellow dog who knows what her job is, and we’re lucky to have her here at Immanuel!