Nursing home does not kid about ‘healing power of animals’

Nursing home does not kid about ‘healing power of animals’
Ava Westendorf and Matt Letourneau

Lying right outside of Phoenix Park, Mount Sackville Nursing Home is a peaceful, animal-loving, growing community that recently, through the Congregation of Cluny’s donation, built a €1.3 million euro expansion to build a new wing. When I first walked in to Mount Sackville on the morning of June 14, I was welcomed by kind staff who offered me coffee or tea before I sat down to interview Sr Maeve Guinan in a bright, cosy room designated as a meeting place for residents, most of who are retired sisters, to sit down with their families. After this interview, I was given the chance to tour the facility and their many benefits.

The new, modern, bright wing in the nursing home, costing the Congregation of Cluny €1.3 million was built for “the safety of the residents.” Equipped with their own individual bathrooms as well as a spacious room fitted with a desk, sitting chair and bed, this new wing was built due to the growing strictness of fire regulations. Sr Maeve said that “now fire regulations are much more stringent, so we would have to retrofit the school and assembly hall and classrooms. Couldn’t do that. We didn’t want to close down the nursing home because we think we have something quite valuable here, so we built a new wing.”

Resident Rita Frawley cuddling with her dog Bonnie

The next reason that Sr Maeve mentioned for building this new addition was so that the rooms had “a new access to the gardens and grounds.” The grounds not only let the residents wander around the property to get exercise but also to obtain a form of therapy through an unexpected source: animals.

Mount Sackville Nursing Home is the residence of two donkeys (Howard and Cyril), a pygmy goat (Stella) who just gave birth to two kids, a sheep (Freckles) and a service dog (Bailey). These animals have become “a fixture” in the nursing home and are used to help many residents with their health, providing them with happiness within their new home. I was able to get a tour through the farm. While engaging in the tour, I was given the opportunity to see how connected these animals are with the sisters living on and working at Mount Sackville.

With all the help that the animals provide for the residents, the nursing home also helped them gain a happy life. Most of the animals living at Mount Sackville, besides Stella the goat, were adopted by the home or dropped off at their door. Sr Maeve was saying that they brought their last dog in because they were “tied to a tree somewhere in the city.” These efforts to save these animals and give them a better life are appreciated by the animals and shown in the way that they act around the sisters.

These residents also feel a sense of safety through the community that has grown within this home”

When going out to the paddocks with Sr Bridget, it was amusing to see her walking to the middle of the yard, yelling the animal’s names. They then came running up to her, anticipating being pet or given treats. It was obvious through their actions how happy and safe they feel at the nursing home, which shows how willing they are to spread this feeling of safety to the residents of Mount Sackville.

These residents also feel a sense of safety through the community that has grown within this home. With so many nursing homes in the area closing recently due to a lack of profit given to them from the city, a sense of community seems to have become much more important. Sr Maeve helps grow a family between the sisters because they “do everything together.” With daily Mass and stimulating activities, the residents of Mount Sackville are together constantly.


I noticed this sense of community when walking down the halls of this nursing home. It was rare to see one of the residents navigating the halls without a friend beside them, whether this is one of the caretakers, all of which know every resident by name and vice versa, or if they are moving with another resident. It was a special sight to see because you could tell that everyone felt as though they were a part of a family.

It’s financially, really very hard actually for small nursing homes to keep going and keep up the standards”

This family now can grow due to the nursing home’s, who put together the Congregation of Cluny, own money that they used to build their new addition. Many other nursing homes around the area are not so lucky. When speaking to Sr Maeve, I asked why she thought these nursing homes were closing at such a rapid rate. She responded that “it’s financially, really very hard actually, for small nursing homes to keep going and keep up the standards,” like they were able to do because of the luck of having enough money to make their own improvements. With these nursing homes closing and causing many of the residents to find new places of living, Sr Maeve says that she hopes “that they get a nursing home as good as where they were.” A nursing home such as Mount Sackville that has dedicated its time and money to create a peaceful, happy community for its residents and workers.