Pet paradise

Charlestown helps pet lovers and their four-legged friends feel at home

Created date

September 17th, 2019
Bob Pelott shares his apartment at Charlestown with his best friend, Wills, a West Highland white terrier.

Bob Pelott shares his apartment at Charlestown with his best friend, Wills, a West Highland white terrier.

October is national Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, an annual campaign sponsored by the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to encourage pet lovers to “adopt, don’t shop” when searching for their next best friend. 

According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Nearly 1.6 million of those are rescued by people like Bob Pelott, who adopted his best friend, Prince William (aka Wills) a West Highland white terrier, 16 years ago. 

“Wills is very friendly and will go anywhere there are people. He loves other dogs and is very social. Everyone wants to pet him and feed him snacks,” says Bob, who moved to Charlestown, an Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md., two years ago. “It took Wills less than a week to adjust to the new apartment. I walk him every morning, which gets me outside and getting some exercise.” 

Fur-ever friends

Bob is one of many pet owners living at Charlestown who take advantage of the 110-acre picturesque campus, which includes a lake, shade trees, a nature trail, and two 20- by 40-foot dog parks where canine companions can stretch their legs. 

Dogs aren’t the only furry friends welcome at Charlestown. Cats, birds, and fish are just as popular.

Sam and Laurie Cushman and their Scottish terrier Dougall McDuff moved to Charlestown a little over three years ago and enjoy the beauty of the campus on their daily walks outside. 

“At the house, we had an invisible fence, and we would just open the door and let him out,” says Sam. “Now, we walk him. It’s been wonderful for both him and for us. He loves being outdoors. We walk past the chapel and the fountain. It’s at the top of a hill where you can look down and see the field and trees. Sam is always on high alert for all sorts of wildlife like rabbits and squirrels. Every once in a while, we’ll see deer. He loves people, and people seem to like him.”

The Cushmans recently adopted a friend for Dougall, a two-year-old black cat named Pippin. 

“I wouldn’t say they are the best of buddies, but they get along,” says Sam. “Growing up, we always had pets, and we are very happy that we can have pets here at Charlestown.” 

Pets unite

The Pet Lover’s Association of Charlestown meets once a month from September through June.  This resident-run group supports Charlestown pet owners by providing lists of local veterinarians, boarding facilities, and groomers, as well as hosting guest speakers and holding a blessing of the pets. 

“We have a lot of dogs here at Charlestown,” says Bob, chair of the association. “The purpose of the Pet Owner’s Association is to bring pet owners together to talk about issues, such as being responsible pet owners, pet care, and referrals for people who need assistance walking their dogs or caring for their pets.” 

Wills is a certified therapy dog, which allows Bob to take him along when he volunteers and visits with residents of Charlestown’s continuing care neighborhood. 

“Wills’ job is to go around and make people feel good, comfortable and less stressed,” says Bob. “When my wife passed away, Wills was a great comfort to me during that time.”

Pawsitive outcome

Studies increasingly show that people who own pets tend to have lower blood pressure and stress, as well as a lower risk for heart disease, depression, and anxiety. Research also shows that pets not only help you stay healthy, but they can also aid in a faster recovery from surgery and illnesses.

“Dogs are very present. If someone is struggling with something, they know how to sit there and be loving,” says Dr. Ann Berger, a physician and researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., in an article, “The Power of Pets.” “Their attention is focused on the person all the time.”

Berger is the chief of Pain and Palliative Care Services at the NIH Clinical Center and says pets can help cancer patients and the terminally ill manage pain through the practice of mindfulness. 

“The foundations of mindfulness include attention, intention, compassion, and awareness,” Berger says. “All of those things are things that animals bring to the table. People kind of have to learn it. Animals do this innately.”

Pets are welcomed at Charlestown, with pet policies in place to allow neighbors without pets to enjoy their homes too, which include keeping your pet’s vaccinations up to date; having your pets leashed at all times outside your home; and cleaning up after your pet.