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Pet love has its perks

Created date

January 31st, 2009

Huddleston The Erickson Tribune The value of pets ranges from emotional to spiritual to clinical. There have been studies that prove having pets can lower blood pressure as well as encourage physical activity; there s also been proof that the act of taking care of a pet can alleviate depression. All of this is worthy to mention, but the true value of pets can go much deeper. Unconditional love "Pets offer unconditional love," says Ann s Choice Social Worker Jody Gerstman, who trains therapy dogs and published a study on the health benefits of having pets inNursing Spectrummagazine. "As long as they re being treated well, pets will give love and affection," Gerstman says. And to the pet lover, the furry companion can be seen as a vital part of the family unit. Keeping the family together Erickson communities, like Ann s Choice and Maris Grove, near Philadelphia, have made being pet friendly and pet responsible part of their mission. When people decide to move to an Erickson community, they are making a decision that is right for all involved. "People don t want to give up their pets just because they re moving; they don t want to break up their family," says Suzanne Tepper, senior resident services manager for Ann s Choice. Maureen Heckler, executive director of Maris Grove, adds, "This is the person s new home, and we want to support that home. That means allowing the residents to bring in what s important to them." Animal adoration Having a love for animals is something that bonds people together. It creates a community connection by giving people something to talk about and relate over. That connection is what prompted Maris Grove residents to form a pet club, which began informally meeting once a month to share their love of furry, four-legged friends. Those who met eventually decided they needed some sort of structure. As an official club, they were featured on the in-house TV channel, says Bob Carmichael, who lives at Maris Grove and runs the canine portion of the pet club and owns a beagle. Since its inception one year ago, the pet club has formed two branches to cater to canines and cats alike. Tinker Parsons, who also lives at Maris Grove, now runs the cat portion of the club. Parsons, has two cats, Perky and Peppy. To Parsons, Carmichael, and the 80 other pet club members, their pets offer them companionship, comfort, and connection. Many members attend the monthly group dinners one for canines, one for cats, to share in their adoration of animals. Giving gratitude North of Maris Grove, in Bucks County, Ann s Choice is celebrating the addition of its newly-formed pet club, which was made official in late December 2008. In addition to forming the club, the community recently sponsored a towel and blanket drive for the Bucks County SPCA, which derived from the Doing Good Committee, "an initiative to promote the volunteer efforts of our residents and staff and partner with other organizations to help in their missions," says Joan Greenberg, the Ann s Choice resident who was in charge of the drive. Greenberg became involved because she wanted to give back in some way to show her gratitude for all that her pets have given her. "My cats ask for so little but provide so much in the way of affection and companionship," Greenberg says. One of the reasons she and her husband chose to move to Ann s Choice was because they could bring their cats. Respecting non-pet owners With all the benefits of owning pets comes serious commitment and responsibility. Whenever someone moves to an Erickson community with a pet, he or she must register it. On the registration form is a place for an emergency contact, someone who will take care of the pet in case an emergency arises. "We have the same responsibility to the pets as we do the residents," Tepper says. For both Ann s Choice and Maris Grove, there are policies and procedures for pet owners to follow, which include: the pet s vaccinations being up to date; the pet being kept leashed at all times outside the home; and the owner cleaning up after the pet. Though pets are welcomed at Ann s Choice and Maris Grove, the pet policies allow neighbors without pets to enjoy their homes too. Whether you have a pet or not, the old adage says it best: Home is where the heart is, and when there s a pet waiting at home, the heart and hearth can over-flow.