How We Take Extra Care for Dogs – and Each Other – in My CCRC

Before the
recent restrictions on socializing, every night after dinner in my community’s
main building, an older gentleman sat in a wing chair opposite the central
elevator, holding a bag of dog treats.

He gave
one to every canine that passed by (on a leash, of course). Bob was an
institution: people sat on either side of him to watch and to kibbutz.

Enter Sally, My Terrier with an Attitude

The first
time I walked my dog to the elevator, Bob asked if he could give her a treat. I
replied, “She’s not friendly.”

sometimes happens with rescued animals, Sally reacts aggressively when she
perceives a threat. If an unknown man raises his hand to wave at me, she goes
crazy. She does not tolerate any incursions on her turf.

Bob was not
daunted by my warning. The next time Sally and I passed by, he asked if he
could give her a treat. I relented, telling her to sit while Bob offered the
cookie. She took it, and I called her away.

following evening, full of confidence, Bob offered her a treat. She took it,
and stared up at him with those big, hungry eyes. He gave her another. She ate
it and waited for more.

Don’t Press Your Luck

Just as I started
to say, “That’s enough,” he began to pet her. Without her permission. And she
bit him.

Not a
full-mouthed, tear-that-squirrel-limb-from-limb kind of bite. Rather, a
closed-mouth bang on the hand, not breaking skin but hard enough to leave a
black-and-blue mark that would last weeks.

Of course,
I apologized. Bob said he didn’t need first aid and looked at me with a
bewildered expression. He seemed more confused than hurt. I guessed he thought
he had been getting along well with Sally. I apologized again and left the
scene. I thought that was the end of the affair.

I Was Wrong

A few days
later, as Sally and I walked sedately past Bob’s group at the elevator, I heard
them talking about another dog that had behaved badly.

the pooch had charged yet another dog, a sweet creature belonging to a popular
resident. A woman I didn’t know said to me, ‘Your dog bites, but you have it
under control.’” She nodded approvingly.

The word
was out: my dog bites.

At first,
I was taken aback. Sally wouldn’t bite unless provoked. This was slander. But,
I had to concede, she was easily provoked. Then I realized Sally’s new
reputation as a biter would be a good thing. It would make people stay away
from her.

To tell
the truth, I had been worried that some senior citizens might be attracted to
her good looks – one ear stands up and the other flops
down around her cute, terrier face – and I’d bought
a dog jacket with the words DO NOT PET velcroed to the sides.

Now I
wouldn’t need to make her wear the jacket. Her reputation would precede her.

More Encounters

The next
day, as we walked down the main corridor to the restaurant, two people coming
toward us stopped and flattened themselves against the wall until we passed.

Later that
week, when I took Sally on a bike ride – I pedaled
and she trotted alongside me on a short leash – on the
sidewalk surrounding the community, two people stepped off the sidewalk into
the street.

I appreciated
having my pathway cleared, but I wondered if they thought Sally more dangerous
than oncoming cars.

the word had spread quickly and thoroughly throughout the community. I’d never
lived in a small town before, but, I thought, this must be what it’s like.

The Flip Side

On second
thought, I realized that ours is not an ordinary small town. People have
gathered here because they need an extra layer of care due to age or illness.
And they also give care.

When a
resident got disturbing news about his wife’s condition and became distraught,
a neighbor cancelled her engagements to go sit with him.

When I
left town for a few days, two women adopted my husband, without being asked, to
make sure he’d enjoy his meals. People look out for each other here. They pay
attention to each other’s business so that they can.

bum rap will protect her, and everyone else, in the end.

It’s not
just the staff and procedures that keep us safe in this community. It’s also the
residents. In this awful time of pandemic, I feel good knowing everyone around
me will bend over backwards to keep their distance and wash their hands.

Would you be comfortable living in a place
where everyone pays attention to your comings and goings? Would the tradeoff
for extraordinary care be worth it to you? Let’s have a conversation.