Although not as personal as one-to-one visits, group visits offer a greater number of residents the opportunity to enjoy time with your companion animal and to keep socialization with the other residents in a facility. Often people who keep to them and seldom speak with each other will engage in conversation and meaningful dialogue when brought together by their affection for and attention to a visiting companion animal.
Some suggestions to maximize enjoyment for you and your companion animal as well as for the resident include:
- The visit should take place in an area large enough to accommodate the residents and visitors
- If you are working alone, residents should be seated in a semi-circle or horseshoe so that all (or at least most) can see the activity taking place in the center of the group
- It is helpful if residents who are hard-of-hearing are seated in the center of the group so they can more easily read your lips
- People who are blind or visually impaired should sit at the ends of the semi circler or horseshoe so they can be physically closer to you
- Scrapbooks, “baby pictures” and other photographs can be circulated among residents not actively interacting with you and your animal by others or facility staff
- For “team visits” where more than one volunteer and companion animal participate, residents can be positioned in a loose circle so that the pets and handlers can move around the group and visit each resident individually or in a smaller group.
- Chairs should be placed throughout the room so that all volunteers will be able to sit down at eye-level with the residents that are speaking with
- It is helpful to have pertinent information about the residents in the group (i.e. does not like animal in face but likes to watch) prior to beginning the visit.