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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Family

Fostering togetherness: Sullivan Park Care Center residents partner SpokAnimal to give temporary home to senior dogs

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Cuddlebug roamed the halls of Sullivan Park Care Center in Spokane Valley, stopping to visit residents, receiving pets and getting the occasional treat.

The 8-year-old Labrador mix is the fourth senior dog the residents have fostered as a part of a program called Hearts and Paws in partnership with SpokAnimal Care. She was adopted over the weekend, and this week residents will welcome two new dogs.

The program is run by residents at the skilled nursing care facility, said executive director Matt Lysobey. “It’s not about me, it’s not about Sullivan Park. It’s really about the residents saving dogs.”

The dogs have a fenced enclosure inside that includes a crate, a dog bed, toys and bowls of food and water. Photos of the dogs that have come and gone hang on the wall above the dog bed. About a dozen residents take turns feeding, walking and grooming the dogs.

“They all have their assigned tasks,” Lysobey said. “It’s all of them together.”

Lysobey said that while the residents are helping senior dogs find loving homes, they also get benefits from the arrangement.

“It can be pretty monotonous here,” he said. “This helps break it up.”

The program also proves the residents can still contribute to their community, he said.

“When you’re a patient, you can feel like no one needs you anymore,” he said.

Resident Ed Minzes, who uses a wheelchair, has learned how to walk the dogs by hooking the leash onto his chair.

“I take her out and walk her, or she walks me,” he said.

He said he likes being a part of the program because he’s always liked dogs.

“It breaks up the monotony of the day here,” he said. “We just spend time with her. She doesn’t like being alone. We go up and down the hall and she visits everybody.”

Cuddlebug, though a large dog, is gentle as she approaches people to say hello and hopefully get a few head scratches and pets.

Resident Charlie Glenn, who has lived at the facility for more than two years, is thrilled to help care for the dogs. “I just love to work with dogs,” he said. “I’ve had dogs all my life.”

Glenn, a night owl, takes her out for her last bathroom break of the day and puts her to bed, something she can be reluctant to do.

“I have a hard time getting her down sometimes,” he said.

He simply enjoys the company of dogs.

“I know they can’t understand me, but I like to talk to them,” he said.

He said he wishes that other nursing homes would do it as well.

“It’s doing a great thing for dogs, especially senior dogs,” he said. “It’s a pleasure. I love doing it.”

The only downside is saying goodbye when dogs get adopted.

“You get attached to these dogs and you hate to see them go,” he said.

Resident Patty Mitchell has taken on the task of adoption coordinator. She interviews potential adopters and quizzes them about what they’re looking for in a companion. The work gives her a purpose.

“I just needed something to do with my time,” she said.

She spends time with each dog to get to know them and relay their personality traits to potential adopters. She said Cuddlebug was well-trained and good with the residents.

“She is so cuddly and gentle,” she said. “She’ll come down and lay by them and put her head on their lap. She just wants love and attention.”

Those interested in adopting senior dogs can contact Mitchell at (509) 789-7856.

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