MANKATO — Fitzgerald William, a floppy-earred 3-year-old basset hound, didn’t seem to notice he was about the only one in the room not smiling Thursday morning at Hillcrest Rehabilitation Center.

Dogs don’t smile, true, but the droopy-eyed canine also was too busy working to worry about appearances.

Fitzgerald William is a therapy dog whose prowess at lightening people’s moods earned him a photo in the Wall Street Journal last year.

His trainer, Molly Johnson, recently moved to the Mankato area, which prompted the visit to the care center. She said basset hounds have a way of getting people’s attentions.

“It’s the ears and his demeanor,” she said. “He loves to be around people.”

People seemed to love to be around him, too. Darlene Morgan, resident at the care center, smiled as Johnson instructed Fitzgerald to roll over and bark. She said she always looks forward to animal visits, which include a variety of furry friends.

The nursing home frequently enlists the help of horses, mini horses, rabbits and dogs to cheer up residents, although staff members seem to enjoy the animals just as much. Many stopped to snap photos and pet the trained pup, as noted by Kathy Dye, therapeutic program director at Hillcrest.

“We have seen the benefits of what animals do, not just for residents but also for staff," she said.

Despite their nonplussed demeanor, basset hounds get as much out of the therapy as the residents do, Johnson said.

“They’re eager to train, smart and as long as you socialize the dog, they’re very good,” she said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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