The residents of Otsego Place Assisted Living crowded in the lobby chatting among themselves, Monday as they waited eagerly for their special guests to arrive, eight cuddly yet squirmy one month old beagle puppies.
"Can you imagine having eight babies all at one time," one female resident exclaims. "Oh my," says another. Some chuckle when they discover there's seven females and only one male in the litter. The puppies belong to John Eddie, a sophomore at Storm Lake High School Eddie's mother, Molly works at Otsego Place. This week is National Assisted Living Week, the residents have been enjoying special activities throughout the week also including music from Tom Gary and the music of Sara Sennert.
Once the puppies arrive they are quickly distributed to residents, fortunately there are several puppies to go around. The residents take their turn to cuddle the pets but find it hard to pass the warm soft ball of fur to the next person as it nestles in their lap. The residents aren't allowed to have pets of their own in their rooms, however, enjoy weekly visits by the facility's "mascot" Brooklyn, a Shih Tzu, owned by Susan Schmitt the activity director. Staff and residents noticed Brooklyn was a bit jealous Monday when she saw eight puppies stealing all of the attention. Eddie says they also enjoy pets brought in once in a while including dogs, cats and rabbits.
"We always encourage pet therapy," says Debbie Klett, Administrator at Otsego Place. "The residents just love the animals." For many who may not have family in the area to visit or haven't enjoyed holding a pet for many years, it brings back smiles, even tears through a simple touch.
"Many of the residents had animals before coming here," adds Eddie. This fact is evident as the residents hold the puppies and the faces are lit up with smiles revealing memories of their own pets from growing up or pets they had when their children were growing up. Or for some it just brightens up a bad day, also helping those who may suffer from loneliness, depression or isolation.
Residents Calvin Frohardt and his wife Leone are retired farmers and used to raise German Shepherds. Frohardt says he remembers one litter had 13 puppies. He loves it when someone brings in some animals. Frohardt says while they were farming they also found some baby skunks and one of their farm cats ended up raising the baby skunks. "It was quite a novelty," he says with a grin.
Resident Betty Walker watches as one puppy takes a short nap on her lap. "You've got the touch," says a staff member. Walker says they used to also raise beagles when she was younger. "Oh yes (I love having them visit), we get attached to them," she says.
Kay Weise became instantly attached when she was handed a puppy. "You can tell mama all about it when you get home," Weise said to the puppy. "She's an animal lover," said Schmitt.
"He's (resident Lawrence Rusk) going to sneak it (puppy) out and hide it under his bed," says one of the staff members with a chuckle as one man bonds with a puppy. "You'd never miss it," Rusk replies, "though I'm afraid I wouldn't get away with it." Rusk says he remembers always having a dog when he was growing up and then always had one when his children were growing up and enjoys having pets come to visit them.
"Kids should have a pet of some kind," he says. Maybe the big kids too.