Community dog knows his place

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Originally published July 28, 2008
By Karen Gardner
News-Post Staff

Photo by Doug Koontz

Buddy, a Lab-shepherd mix, is a resident at Sunrise Assisted Living in Frederick. He has kept the residents company for almost nine years.

Buddy is a 9-year-old Lab-shepherd mix who takes his job very seriously.
Buddy provides entertainment, companionship, or just a warm body to sit with at Sunrise Assisted Living in Frederick.

The residents, mostly senior citizens, as well as volunteers and staff treat him as one of their own.

Buddy has his own chair in the lounge off the main lobby, a leather Queen Anne-style with just enough room for his furry 80-pound body. Sometimes, he sits on the sofa or the ottoman, or curls up on the floor in front of the receptionist.

That’s when he’s not in a resident’s room or being walked by a staff member or volunteer.

About the only place off limits to Buddy is the dining room. During meals, he stations himself outside the kitchen door, hoping for scraps.

Sunrise adopted Buddy eight years ago from the shelter at Frederick County Animal Control. He was a year-old stray, scheduled to be euthanized later that day.

All the assisted living homes in the Sunrise chain have resident dogs, executive director Fay Kaufman Sanders said. “Dogs are good therapy for residents,” she said. “It makes our community very home-like.”

Dianne Block, a volunteer, walks Buddy three or four times a week. He also spends a lot of time with Block’s mother, Shirley, a resident at the home.

“I think he enriches their lives,” Dianne Block said. “He gives them something to think about besides themselves.”

Volunteer Peter Pearl walks Buddy at least once a day.

Medium-size to large dogs are best in homes for older people, Sanders said. Older people can trip over small dogs. Calm, friendly dogs do best in a busy atmosphere with lots of new people, and Buddy fits the bill.

“He knows which residents will feed him, even in the middle of the night,” she said.

Buddy has been known to get on the elevator by himself to visit his friends on upper floors. Once he got stuck and it took several rides up and down before staff realized he was in there.

Buddy never barks, but he does make friends. He has several canine pals in the neighborhood around Sunrise where he walks. He once escaped and found his way to the home of Donna Porreco, Sunrise’s director of community relations and one of Buddy’s favorite people, who lives in nearby Tasker’s Chance. Now Buddy wears a collar that alerts staff if he leaves, similar to the bracelets that residents with Alzheimer’s disease wear.

Block brings her own dog to visit her mother, and Buddy is always welcoming to other canine visitors, she said.

“This is his place.”

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