Chief Clinical Dietitian,
St. Clare’s Hospital
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.
Education: B.A., College of the Holy Cross; M.B.A., Bryant College
Married. Lives with husband, Tom, in Montville, N.J.
Joanne McMillian loves dogs and enjoys being with older people. So she has combined these two into a single passion, that of enriching the lives of senior citizens by sharing her Clumber Spaniel, Monty, with them. McMillian talks about how her avocation came about.
“I’ve always been a pet lover. I didn’t have a dog growing up, and I got married later in life, so when I was single I felt I wasn’t home enough to take care of an animal. After I got married my husband and I talked about having a dog. We researched, started meeting breeders at dog shows and read books to determine which breed of dog we would get. There were a couple of breeds that seemed to fit our lifestyle and personality and one of them was the clumber spaniel. We went through the AKC to find some breeders, and six and a half years ago we met a breeder in Tampa, Fla. We applied for Monty and were accepted.
When we got Monty we started taking classes at St. Hubert’s, which is a dog training school and shelter in Madison, N.J., and through St. Hubert’s we got Monty certified as a canine ‘good citizen.’ After that we enrolled in a program to see if your dog is compatible to go into nursing homes and hospitals to visit patients. He passed, and we’ve been doing that for the last three years.
I like it because I enjoy being around older people. My first job as a dietitian was working at a nursing home, and I do like just being with senior citizens. I like the fact that we bring some joy into their days. They are living in a situation where they are outside of their homes. Sometimes they have very few visitors. When you come to visit them with your dog it brings back all the memories of their pets. They start telling you stories about what their dogs were like and what their dog’s name was and start asking you questions about your dog. It brings back some happy thoughts to them.
Usually we do this on a monthly basis. We either go alone or pair up with another person who has a dog in the program. Each visit is approximately an hour. There is a greeter or the activities director who will escort you around. Generally we go into an activity room or common room where the residents are together. They sit in a circle and you go around and meet each person individually. We entertain them because Monty knows a lot of different tricks. Then I go around and ask them questions about their dogs and answer questions about what we do and what Monty is like. After that I usually go around to individual rooms for people who are not able to get out of bed and spend five or 10 minutes each.
What really stands out for me are people who have some form of dementia, because they might not remember things they did today but many times they’ll remember their dogs. So they can have a conversation with you that is meaningful to them and it gets them to interact with people.”
Monty is a very calm dog, very even-tempered. I feel very comfortable having him in any situation. Monty loves treats. I give him special treats when he’s there to encourage him to come close to a resident so they can pet him. He likes green beans, apples, cheese and hot dogs.”