- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) - Another Thursday, and another day of some volunteering.

These days, it’s not that easy to get up and get around for Rowdy Chance.

He’s nearly blind and his legs aren’t as stable as it used to be, but it’s an understandable excuse when you’re 133 years old, well, in dog years.

For the past year, Rowdy, the 19-year-old jack chi, a mix between a jack russell and chihuahua, has been going, along with his owner, Ken Chance, to Grace Living Center in Stillwater every Thursday to give nursing home residents some emotional support.

“Without exception, people just get a big thrill out of it,” Ken says.

The tiny, white dog sits in his bed, which is not much bigger than him, while Ken carries him from door to door for the residents to get a quick snuggle. Each time, the absent-looking residents quickly get a jolt of joy as Ken and Rowdy enter the room.

Beverly Hawley, the activities director for Grace Living Center, says Rowdy’s contribution to the center has been invaluable.

“They love him,” Beverly says. “They like pettin’ on him, and he is so calm and relaxing that it actually calms and helps them relax.”

Ken and Rowdy are associated with the Love On a Leash program, and the two go all over Stillwater giving emotional support and therapy to seniors in various programs.

The two are a perfect match.

The Stillwater Press (https://bit.ly/1QuPax0 ) reports that while Rowdy can only last about two minutes before closing his eyes for a nap, Ken is the exact opposite.

Keeping up with the 75-year-old veteran is a chore in itself. The man walks through halls of the center like he’s late to an important meeting, bouncing in and out of rooms like a ball in a pinball machine.

Ken says he likes to tout Rowdy as possibly, “The world’s oldest living therapy dog.”

Whether that’s true, it’s still impressive.

Ken got Rowdy when he was a puppy, and he says he decided to use Rowdy as an emotional support animal for others after realizing how beneficial Rowdy has been in his life.

“He’s a service dog to me too because I had a fairly significant health issue about a year ago, and he helped me get through it,” Ken says. “The doctor said, ‘Hey, he is your emotional support dog.’”

But even before Ken’s health issue, Rowdy had played a huge role in rehabilitating Ken’s wife for a period of time before she passed away.

In 2007, Ken’s wife, Jean, had a heart attack and had to be bedridden for several weeks.

Ken says Rowdy would lay in bed with Jean and keep her company.

“I’m hard of hearing and I got hearing aids last year, but I didn’t have them then,” Ken says. “As I was cooking meals or whatever I was doing in the rest of the house, we worked out a system where she had a bicycle horn she would honk, and I’d go see what she wanted.

“He (Rowdy) caught on real quick that horn meant, ‘go get Ken.’ He’d jump off the bed and go find me, yappin’ his head off, ‘get your butt back there.”

Since joining Love On a Leash, Ken says it has been a joy to share Rowdy with the community.

A lot of interaction between Rowdy and the community isn’t through the program either because wherever and whenever Ken goes, Rowdy travels along.

Ken has a doggy bed stationed in the passenger seat of his car, with a seat belt, for Rowdy.

“He’s a little spoiled,” Ken says.

Other than bringing Rowdy to visit seniors in the community, Ken says he gets a kick out of how the children in the community react when they meet him.

Last December, Ken pulled Rowdy in a little wagon with a sign that read, of course, “Possibly, the world’s oldest therapy dog,” in the Christmas parade. He said the kids loved it.

“They’re just thrilled to death to be able to find a dog that’s (this old),” Ken says.

___

Information from: Stillwater News Press, https://www.stwnewspress.com

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