Richard Dawson and his brother Martin understand firsthand the amount of effort and dedication involved in caring for the elderly.
The brothers look after their maternal grandparents, who live in an apartment attached to their home in Worthing, a town on the southeastern coast of England. Their grandmother, whom they call “Nan,” was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease five years ago.
More TODAY Puppy Dog videos
Kitty Roo sweatshirt, hamster-powered car: See the greatest gadgets for pets
See TODAY puppy Charlie’s family reunion with mom, dad and siblings
Watch TODAY puppy Charlie show how he’d get help in an emergency
Freebie Friday: Lucky fans win pet essentials and a $1,000 gift card from PetSmart
The progressive neurological disorder often brings with it changes in mood, and Nan, 95, would get very upset whenever she experienced pain or confusion. But the brothers noticed she became lovingly distracted by their baby nephew, who would visit from London each month with their brother James, 39. Since their nephew couldn’t be around all the time, the siblings thought a dog might have a similar positive impact on their grandmother.
But that’s where Richard, 28, and Martin, 41, balked. It's already a full-time job for Martin to care for both grandparents at home, and Richard has a career in digital marketing. Taking on a new pup seemed like additional work they couldn't handle.
Luckily, Richard discovered a website called borrowmydoggy.com, which connects people looking for a bit of puppy affection with local dog owners and their pets.
“We were matched with a lady called Ann and she brought the puppy called Orla down to meet with myself, my brother and my grandparents,” Richard told TODAY.
Let’s just say they hit it off. Orla, a 9-month-old dachshund puppy, is a bundle of energy perfectly suited for Nan, and has been coming over twice a week for over a month.
While Orla only visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays right now, the family is intent on setting up more play dates.
After Martin sent Richard photos of Orla and Nan playing, Richard posted them to Twitter. People loved it, and it also caught the attention of Orla’s owner.
“After it all happened she sent a message to me and my brother and told us how happy she was that Orla was making a difference with Nan,” said Richard.
And Ann isn’t the only one who has reached out. Richard has been receiving messages from people who are excited to try the service for their elderly relatives, as well as folks who are interested in putting their dogs on the website in the hopes that they, too, can be of assistance to someone.
“I’ve had people say that they have a dog and they didn’t know how helpful this could be,” said Richard. “They’re now going to look into lending their dog out.”
One thing is for sure: Nan and Orla have definitely snuggled their way into our hearts.