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It's a dog's life

Furry friends make Ashby Ponds home, too

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October 22nd, 2013
A group of cats and dogs
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My dog is my best buddy, and I feel that pet animals enhance our lives, says Roz Radcliffe, who lives at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va. Shortly after moving to Ashby Ponds in November 2008, Roz met fellow community member and dog owner Dotti Sampugna. As two of the earliest dog owners at the newly opened community, the women decided to co-chair a dog club. My dog Brewster is a great companion and a good listener, says Dotti. I rescued him nearly six years ago after my husband died, and he is such a great joy in my life. I felt that it was important to get together with other dog owners and coordinate ways in which we can support each other.

Respect for neighbors

Upon moving to Ashby Ponds, dog and cat owners register their pets. Animals must remain on a leash whenever they are out of their homes. With the exception of assistive dogs, dogs are not allowed in indoor public spaces and are to remain in their residences. Our club is very relaxed, says Dotti. We do not hold regularly scheduled meetings nor do we collect membership dues. Shortly after the club was formed, an unidentified dog was taken to the front desk at the Cardinal Clubhouse. It was at that time that Dottie realized that they needed a pet register with photographs in the event pet and owner become separated. We arranged photo sessions for all the pets at Ashby Ponds, says Dotti. My neighbor Nan Krueger volunteered to be our photographer. The current pet register accounts for 49 cats, 44 dogs, and three box turtles.

Staying well

As the number of dogs living at Ashby Ponds grew, the need to care for the dogs became a top priority for the dog club. In the summer of 2009, the club invited a local veterinarian to the community to regularly update shots and distribute medications. Two years later, Katherine Buck Gray, D.V.M., owner of Agape Veterinary Clinic, in The Plains, Va., and daughter of community member Alice Buck, assumed the responsibility of caring for the pets. She also shares her knowledge with a series of lectures on important pet-related issues, including tick bites and proper nutrition. She comes every month or as soon as the clinic receives a number of calls from the residents, says Alice. She brings products such as flea and tick prevention, heart worm medication, and other requested items. And the best part for me is that I get to visit with her! Dr. Gray is a lifesaver, says Dottie. Our dogs are treated very well. Where else will you find a vet who comes and makes personal house calls? Only at Ashby Ponds!

Helping hands

Caring for the community s pets is not only important to the dog club but to the entire community. Ashby Ponds social workers Ron Longo and Faith Edwards are available to help those who need long-term assistance with their pets. For a variety of reasons, from a vacation to an illness, community members may occasionally need help caring for their pets, says Ron. We encourage them to contact us. We work with a Leesburg, Va.-based company, One of a Kind K9, that will come to their home and provide walking, running, training, and pet-sitting services. Everything Ashby Ponds does to encourage our residents to nourish their dogs emotionally, physically, and socially is a wonderful benefit, says Roz. The dog club also helps members through an informal grief-counseling group, led by community member Margy Smith. As a counselor, I have led many bereavement groups and encountered pet owners who grieved for a pet as one might for a person, says Margy. Last fall, Dotti and I discussed a number of residents who had recently lost pets, and we decided to offer a short-term group for them here at Ashby Ponds. Dotti and Margy meet with the grieving pet owners at the community chapel and often send sympathy cards.

A blessing for their blessing

Each fall, the dog club provides its members an opportunity to celebrate and bless their beloved pet. On October 4, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, Ashby Ponds hosts a blessing of the pets in the community gazebo. Rev. Matthew Sergent, a former K9 police officer and current pastor of the Galilee Methodist Church, comes to bless the pets. The event is open to everyone, and all the pets leave with not only a blessing but a special treat. My life has been enhanced by my beloved dog and cat, says Roz. They are forever in my heart. I believe pets are our true loves. God bless Dotti and all she does to help our animals.

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