MESA, Ariz. — Residents at Oakwood Creative Care in Mesa, Arizona were greeted by a sweet and friendly visitor.
Miss Dolly Star is a miniature therapy cow.
She walked out of the truck and down a ramp to meet her guests.
Miss Dolly Star is smaller than a regular cow and bigger than a large dog.
Oakwood brought Miss Dolly Star to their facility to brighten its residents' spirits.
“They need engagement, not to be pushed off and kept safe,” said Carol Lawless, Oakland's director of community engagement.
The nonprofit day center is for people with cognitive disabilities, such as Alzheimer's, dementia, and Parkinson's disease.
“They need to have joy and love and friendship, especially as they face these diseases,” she said.
Her job is to make sure the members now facing uncertain futures find joy, love, and friendship through the unique experiences she works to provide.
Randy Prentiss is a Vietnam veteran and member of Oakwood.
“I came here, and everything changed because I have friends. I try to remember their names, but they don't mind if I forget,” he said.
It's also a place where he and others are given the opportunity to focus on building connections and making friends with those who know what it's like, a brief break from the realities of the diseases they're navigating.
“It’s important to know that other people care and that they know I’m going through the same thing they are,” said another member.
Karin Boyle started the Dolly Star Foundation after her father ended up in a memory care facility following heart surgery. She said her dad, a longtime farmer, seemed to respond in a positive way to his cattle.
“We go out almost every weekend to a facility, if not two," said Boy said. "She is requested all over the place.”
Dolly visits children's hospitals, memory care and rehab facilities, and senior living homes.
“I knew it was going to help so many more people,” Boyle said.