Winnipeg seniors turn to 127-kg dog 'Hank the Tank' for comfort
Published Tuesday, May 31, 2016 8:01AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 31, 2016 8:55AM EDT
Following the murder of her daughter five years ago, Marie Swanson turned to her dog Hank to help cope the heartache.
"He was my main reason for getting out of bed in the mornings," the Winnipeg woman said of her English Mastiff.
Hank was a puppy when Swanson's 33-year-old daughter Gina was found bound and stabbed in her home.
Swanson said Hank stood loyally by her side through the funeral, the investigation and the trial.
"It doesn't matter what you say to them," Swanson told CTV Winnipeg. "It stays with them."
Today, the 127-kg dog, who requires a ramp to get in and out of Swanson's car, continues to do his part to provide emotional comfort to others.
Hank, who's affectionately known as 'Hank the Tank', recently graduated from the St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog Program.
Swanson accompanies him to a local senior residence where once a week he cast his charm on those living in the facility, many of who are living with dementia.
"I really did miss you," one woman exclaims as the giant dog takes in the outpouring of attention and affection.
Heather Malazdrewicz of the Riverwood Square retirement community said the visits with Hank often bring back the seniors’ memories of their own childhoods.
"Seeing Hank, it gets them socially engaged,” she said.
Meanwhile, Swanson said her daughter would have liked to see Hank helping others.
"I didn’t know he’d be such a big hit,” Swanson said. “I think (Gina) would want me to find some purpose. And she’d be happy with it, because she was a real animal lover too.”
With a report from CTV Winnipeg's Sarah Plowman