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Renaissance tales

Created date

November 23rd, 2009

Rhett is a full-time employee of Renaissance Gardens, the extended-care neighborhood at Ann s Choice. He clocks in and out every day. He gets most weekends off. And occasionally, he takes mini-vacations. But unlike other staff at Renaissance Gardens, Rhett doesn t receive traditional wages. Instead, he is paid with pats and pets, treats and carrots, and an occasional scrap or two. Taking on the role of greeter, comedian, listener, and friend, Rhett is the true canis universalis ( Renaissance Dog ). More commonly, he is known as the certified pet therapy dog who thrives on giving love to residents of Renaissance Gardens. [caption id="attachment_6788" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Treats and belly rubs rejuvenate Rhett and remind him that life is good as a therapy dog. (Photo by Heather Leah Huddleston)"]Renaissance pets Rhett isn t the only pet offering up the love at Renaissance Gardens. Pom Pom is an 11-year-old Pomeranian-poodle mix who belongs to resident Clare Staniec. Though Pom Pom can be timid around strangers, she loves going out for walks around the neighborhood. One of the reasons why Staniec chose Ann s Choice was because she could bring her canine with her. The two have been companions since the dog was just one week old. We re growing old together. Right, Pom Pom? says Staniec, as she holds the dog in her arms and they give each other kisses. Throughout her life, Staniec has always had a dog, and she didn t want that to change. She says that Pom Pom is funny, smart, affectionate, social she is, in fact, the perfect companion. I m crazy about her! Staniec says. I love how she responds to me and makes me laugh. I m so happy she s with me. Down the hall from Staniec and Pom Pom, James McKnight keeps his front door closed with a sign stating, Don t Let the Cat Out. [caption id="attachment_6796" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Left: Pom Pom, the Pomeranian-poodle. Right: Teddy prefers Jim McKnight s lap but settles for a floor seat. (Photo by Heather Leah Huddleston)"][/caption] Teddy or Theodore, when he s in trouble is a black four-year-old male who is more kitten than cat and takes to lounging on McKnight s lap. Cats have gotten a bad reputation for being cold, standoffish, and even snobby. But to their owners, cats offer a special kind of love and affection. McKnight refers to Teddy as a good buddy who is very good company. They even enjoy music together. McKnight performed as a musician for much of his life, and Teddy listens intently, his eyes half-closed as if in utter ecstasy, while his owner sings and plays the stand-up bass. Aside from sitting on his owner s lap and listening to his music, Teddy s favorite thing is rolling around and getting his belly scratched. He just needs a few pats and he s fine, McKnight says. Even people who live in other Ann s Choice neighborhoods like to visit with their pets in tow. For example, Ellie Klazmer, who lives in Ivy Glen at Ann s Choice, visits her husband, who is a resident at Renaissance Gardens, and brings her grand-dog Callie (her granddaughter s dog) to visit whenever she is dog-sitting. The pure white poodle-Maltese mix gets dressed in Phillies bandanas and Eagles sweatshirts. She s a sports fan, Klazmer explains. She says that people get excited to see her, and Callie always offers friendly licks and jumps for joy when a human shows interest in her. The love these pets give has a healing effect on every resident, visitor, and caregiver. They provide a different kind of medicine, one that can t be measured. Pets embody unconditional love; they give compassionate companionship; they offer complete, unadulterated joy.