MOLINE -- Harriet's an ''Iams'' dog.|
Not because of the food she eats, but because of the family she's a part of, and the job she does.
Her whole name is Harriet Frances Iams -- picked, in part, because of how funny it sounded to give such a big name to a little dog and as a pun to her hairiness, Amy Iams said of her 2-pound-6, ounce toy Yorkshire Terrier.
When asked to spell her last name, Mrs. Iams said ''it's just like the dog food. Too bad we can't get some of it for free.''
Folks at Illinois Lutheran Social Service's Intouch Adult Day and Home Care Services sometimes call Harriet ''Baby,'' ''Little Bit,'' or other ''small'' names, as she makes her rounds. Harriet has become a regular fixture at the Moline social and health-care service provider, assisting Mrs. Iams, a program nurse.
Both have their licenses.
Mrs. Iams is a licensed practical nurse. She said Harriet, in addition to her dog tags, has a ''license to love.''
Harriet also has had all her shots, while Mrs. Iams is known to give a shot or two, when needed.
Participants lined up in front of her office door seem more interested in Harriet than being inoculated, she said. ''Even the staff comes looking for her, saying they need some 'Harriet time.'
''I didn't realize at first what a difference Harriet was making,'' Mrs. Iams said. ''In hindsight, it shouldn't have been surprising, based on all the research and studies that have been done about pet therapy and comfort dogs.
''Harriet's been a big hit from the first day I got her and brought her here to visit,'' she said, adding that she didn't intentionally make Harriet into a pet-therapy pooch. It just gradually happened.
Harriet, who will celebrate her first birthday April 15, became a member of the Iams and Intouch family last June.
''I started bringing her a couple days a week, but I wound up bringing her every day,'' Mrs. Iams said.
When she didn't bring Harriet, everyone, including visiting families, would ask where she was. And then gifts for Harriet started pouring in -- toys and lots of clothes. Harriet's wardrobe includes holiday outfits, including a Santa Claus suit, a Valentine dress, and an Easter one she's waiting to unveil.
Harriet knows she has a job to get to every morning, Mrs. Iams said. One day, she almost forgot to stash Harriet in her customized traveling purse, until Harriet tugged on her pant leg.
''She's like any toddler,'' Mrs. Iams said. ''She loves attention and wants to be around people.''
And people at Intouch want to be around her as much as possible.
''It's amazing to watch the folks here with Harriet,'' Intouch community liaison Pam Berenger said. ''It's all about the unconditional love Harriet provides. All she wants in return is to be petted.''
And she has a certain sense of what people want and need from her, Intouch participant Ken Brewer, of East Moline, said.
''When 'Uncle Ken,' as he's known here, first came, he hardly talked or got involved in anything,'' Mrs. Iams said.
After making Harriet a priority in his life, he's talking a lot more and even makes jokes now, she said.
Mary Peters, another Harriet fan, recently had a heart attack and needed to be shocked back to life three times, but after regaining consciousness, she called right away to inform Mrs. Iams she wouldn't be available the next morning to take Harriet for a walk.
''Bless her heart,'' participant Betty Williams, of Rock Island, added. ''We love Harriet.''
Intouch is a home away from home for folks it serves, Ms. Berenger said. ''Many of them don't have pets at home anymore but may have had at one time. Many of them have lost their spouses or their homes, but Harriet gives them back some of the senses and feelings they feel they had lost.''
Pet-therapy research has uncovered several helpful techniques, such as how animals can provide a ''natural redirection'' for people such as dementia patients, Ms. Berenger said.
''But Harriet doesn't need to know all those techniques,'' she said.
''Harriet is the technique,'' Mrs. Iams said.
''Most people also think that to be a companion dog, you have to be a large one, but that's not the case,'' she said. ''Harriet's small size is an advantage because she can be easily held without putting any undue strain on the people who want to hold her and cuddle.''
To make it official, though, Harriet is enrolled in socializing and canine companionship classes at Moline's PetCo, and expects to graduate soon with a certificate, Mrs. Iams said.
Until then, Harriet will continue making everyone's day a little brighter at Intouch, she said.
''And Harriet doesn't care what people look like, or if they have dirty clothes, or what their hair looks like that day,'' she said.
''God knew we needed companions such as Harriet,'' Ms. Berenger said. ''He's made such a strong connection between folks here and Harriet, it's amazing.''
Harriet's an equal-opportunity provider, Ms. Berenger said, similar in nature to our all-loving God, who in the book of Exodus coincidentally identifies himself to Moses as ''I Am.''
''Say this to the people of Israel, I Am sent you to me,'' reads Exodus 3:14 says.
At Intouch, they say Iams was sent to them -- Harriet Frances Iams, that is.
Rock island, IL Details
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