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Tonka the therapy dog

April 6, 2020


A therapy dog named Tonka had to put a twist on his visits to a local nursing home due to the coronavirus, but the mission is still the same.

“We’re so excited to just be able to make them smile today,” Tonka’s owner, Courtney Leigh, told NBC affiliate KXAN.

The lovable Great Dane was recognized as the “Hero of the Day” on TODAY Thursday for brightening spirits of elderly residents under quarantine at Cedar Pointe Health and Wellness Suites in Cedar Park, Texas.

Cedar Pointe has discontinued all visits for precautionary purposes because of the spread of the coronavirus, which top health officials have said presents a higher risk of complications to people over 60.

As for Tonka, leading health officials have said that there is no present evidence that dogs can get coronavirus.

The quarantine didn’t stop Leigh and Tonka from spreading cheer, as she recently took him up to many residents’ windows so they could wave and say hello.

“We really missed our visits, and I thought, ‘What can I do personally on my own to try and continue some of the feel-good this wonderful dog gives to everyone?”’ Leigh said. “Certainly it’s a safe space with the window as a barrier, just walking around the outside.”

Some residents even made homemade signs telling Tonka they missed him. Leigh also carried a sign that read “We miss you,” letting the residents know someone was thinking about them during a difficult time.

There have been several sweet moments outside nursing homes across the country during the coronavirus pandemic.

A woman was able to show her beloved grandfather her new engagement ring through a window at his nursing home in North Carolina, while a man separated from his wife of 67 years celebrated their anniversary with a sweet sign outside her nursing home in Connecticut.

“It can be so isolating, especially for our older Americans, and it’s not safe for kids or grandkids to be around, but we can still say, ‘We love you and we’re thinking about you and we see you,”’ Savannah Guthrie said on TODAY Thursday.

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