By: Chris Gardner
November 9, 2014
Bunny Bartels knows how to make Sadie the dog pant with happiness.
“She likes to have her ears rubbed,” Bartels said Friday, as she gently stroked Sadie’s right ear in the great room at The Villa, a memory care center at The Watermark at East Hill.
Sadie is used to the attention, and she thrives on it. The 12-year-old yellow Labrador retriever was rescued last year while wandering in the woods in Vermont after her former owner died.
She was brought to The Villa to be a “comfort dog” for the senior residents, who suffer from varying degrees of memory loss.
Her presence has been appreciated by residents like Bartels, one of 13 people who live in the 7,024-square-foot building off East Hill Road.
“She just hangs on so tight with me now,” she said, while relaxing in a chair with Sadie by her side. “She seems to welcome everybody who comes in to the building. She checks it all out.”
Sadie has the run of the house, and she often sleeps with residents in their rooms. She nuzzles up to people as they sit in armchairs by the fireplace, and enjoys running in the courtyard and going on walks with people.
Staff members, who are called nayas — an ancient Sanskrit word that means guide or person of wisdom — say she senses when residents are having a bad day, and tends to pay more attention to them.
“Sadie is wonderful. She brings a lot of happiness to the residents when they are down,” said Lisa Ford, who works at The Villa. “She is a distraction when they are having their upset moments.”
Sadie has made such an impact on her housemates that she was recently given a national “Pet Ambassador of the Year” award from Watermark Retirement Communities, the Tucson-based company that owns The Watermark at East Hill.
The Villa is styled like a home, with an open floor plan that includes a kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances. Bedrooms fan out along two wide corridors that branch off the gathering space.
Residents help staff prepare the meals and clean up. Having a dog roaming through the space seemed like a natural extension of people’s own homes, Ford said.
“Obviously this is a home, and we wanted it to be more family-like,” she said. “Sadie is definitely a big part of our family. It makes it feel more like a home with having a dog.”
Denise Julian, program director at The Watermark, said Sadie provides people with unconditional love — one of the best reasons to have a pet.
“No matter how crummy a day you’ve had, she lifts you up,” she said.
Herb Kamrass plays with Sadie at The Watermark at East Hill villa in Southbury Thursday. Sadie is a 12-year-old yellow Lab, who was rescued by employees at The Watermark at East Hill last year. She is living as a “comfort dog” at The Villa, the memory care community at the facility. Steven Valenti Republican-American
Bunny Bartels feeds Sadie a treat while playing with her at The Watermark at East Hill villa in Southbury Thursday. Sadie is a 12-year-old yellow Lab, who was rescued by employees at The Watermark at East Hill last year. She is living as a “comfort dog” at The Villa, the memory care community at the facility. Steven Valenti Republican-American