‘I’m going to call you Lola’

Senior receives robotic dog

Lynn Haynes received a robotic dog from NARCOG on Friday, Oct. 21, 2022. (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CRANE HILL, Ala. Lynn Haynes’ broken heart was mended at the Crane Hill Senior Center Friday, Oct. 21, when she was presented with a dog. Yet, despite its yapping, responsive tail wagging and heartbeat, the new pup comes without the hazards and mess associated with owning a pet. Haynes’ new dog happens to be a robot. 

Haynes lost her best friend, a Yorkie/Shih Tzu mix named Lola, last year and still gets choked up when talking about her beloved best friend.  

“Lola was my best friend, and we did everything together. I never felt alone when I had Lola. Nothing’s been the same since. I still can’t get over it. I loved that little dog so much,” Haynes shared through tears Friday morning before her surprise. 

Crane Hill Senior Center Director Kim Overton recently attended a meeting where she learned of a possible solution to Haynes’ sadness over her Lola. Overton submitted the application, unsure of what would happen next. 

On Friday morning, while Haynes and friends were telling tales about Lola, Dana Dobson, the Alabama Cares coordinator for the North Central Alabama Regional Council of Governments (NARCOG), entered the senior center. Dobson came bearing a special gift for Haynes – a new puppy. 

Thanks to a grant received during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, NARCOG has been distributing robotic pets since and has seen a drastic difference in the lives of the seniors who have received their furry companions. 

“We got a grant during COVID for robotic pets to help with isolation,” said Dobson. “I work with people with mild dementia to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. It’s been a great program. It helps with everything from sundowners to bringing joy in their lives. Their faces just light up! Often, real pets can pose a trip hazard, and our seniors find it difficult to care for them, but they still want a companion. This is a great solution. We followed people that we’ve already given them to, and their attitudes and behavior improved tremendously.” 

(Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

“I’m going to call you Lola like my other dog,” Haynes told her new best friend as she smiled brightly cuddling her new dog. 

For more information about his program and others offered by NARCOG, visit www.narcog.org or call 256-355-4515. 

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