Tribune Print Share Text

In pursuit of happiness

For some, pets pave the way

Created date

May 21st, 2014
man with his dog

After this year’s long winter, everyone at Wind Crest is ready to get out and enjoy the community’s walking trails, including its four-legged friends.

Martha Nelson and her three-year-old West Highland white terrier (aka Westie) Micky walk Wind Crest’s premises several times a day, from its paved paths outside to the Highline Canal Trail that runs parallel to the community. They also head to the nearby municipal dog park a few times a week.

“Micky loves going out. He’s made lots of dog friends, and their owners have become our friends,” says Martha. “[Owning a dog] is a great way to meet people.”

She, her husband Jerry, and Micky moved to the Highlands Ranch, Colo., Erickson Living community from Santa Fe, N.M., two years ago this month. 

Perfect perch

“Micky was made very welcome here from the get-go. He even joined in our meetings with the sales staff while we were making decisions about our apartment home,” Martha says.

Despite their perch on the fifth floor, Micky feels grounded thanks to the large bay window where he returns to his “post” and watches over his domain after walks. Jerry says their apartment home, a large, two-bedroom Wyeth floor plan featuring a den, has been perfect for him and Martha, as well as for Micky. 

“It’s very bright and open with windows in every room except the bathrooms,” says Martha. “And it’s just a little smaller than our home was in Santa Fe.”

Martha and Jerry say Wind Crest’s pet policy didn’t have much weight on their decision to move there because they had already decided it was the perfect place for their retirement. “Even before we got Micky, we knew Wind Crest was the place for us,” says Martha.

The pet policy points out that residents can bring a “well-behaved, quiet pet with you when you move in.” And because not everyone is a dog or cat lover, the policy clarifies expectations of pet owners and sets forth rules like leashing, vaccinations, and community space: “Remember that your pet’s behavior and cleanliness impact on the whole community.”

Unconditional love and other pluses

Martha, Jerry, and Micky are well-known around campus. It’s one of the reasons why the Nelsons love owning a pet. Though Wind Crest doesn’t have an official pet club, dog owners and their furry friends have formed their own ad hoc community. It’s just one of the many benefits of owning a dog, Martha says.

Companionship, unconditional love, and affection are all reasons to own a pet, says Martha. Plus, she says, it’s a great way to meet people, feel responsible, and reduce stress. “Just having that cute little face loving you can be a big stress reducer for some people,” she says.


Benefits of pet ownership

Fun facts about four-legged friends and you


  • Older adults who own dogs go to the doctor less than those who do not. In a study of 100 Medicare patients, even the most highly stressed dog owner had 21% fewer physician visits than any non-dog owner.
  • Pet owners tend to have better overall physical health due to exercising with their pets.
  • Pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride levels, and lower cholesterol levels than non-pet owners.
  • Continuing care communities in New York, Missouri, and Texas that have animals and plants as an integral part of the environment saw medication costs drop from an average of $3.80 per patient per day to just $1.18 per patient per day.
  • Research shows that having a pet may decrease heart attack mortality by 3%. This translates into 30,000 lives saved annually.
  • Pets dramatically decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation. 
  • People with borderline hypertension had lower blood pressure on days they took their dogs to work.
  • Dogs are preventive and therapeutic measures against everyday stress.

Resource: Senior Citizens Benefit From Pet Ownership by Dr. Karen Halligan, SPCALA