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Autumn Comes to Dunbar Village in Bay St. Louis
By Daisy Mae Delray
Jan 21, 2014, 18:21

This is a big week for the Pet Planning Committee at Dunbar Village. They will be welcoming a young female cat named Autumn, a new feline team member, joining other non-humans residing and working at Dunbar Village.
Dunbar Village is in Bay Saint Louis. It is a retirement community which offers various levels of care to its residents; independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing and rehabilitative care. Tina and I have visited friends there and had a family member stay for a month for some rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery.
One of the first things you notice when you walk in the front door is the bird cage on the right, just inside, by a nice big window. we are often greeted by one or more of the dogs and cats. Shasta is part Eskimo and part wolf. She is about 8 years old. The black lab is Diamond. She is a retired therapy dog and she is also about 8. Then there is Rascal, a grey and brown tabby and a teacup poodle named Bridget. Various fish and additional birds round out the mix. The new cat Autumn will take some of the cat rounds for Rascal.
It is so much fun to visit and watch Shasta or Diamond galloping down a hall looking for a pat or a treat. Rascal, the grey tabby is in and out of rooms visiting his pals. I was informed that he has put himself on a schedule and makes rounds every day depending on who he thinks needs him the most. They are aided and abetted by the human team members who are just wonderful with the non-human staffers.
At Dunbar Village you really feel at home and welcomed and that is the idea. We talked with Michelle Daniel, Administrator of Dunbar Village about the pets, how they got there and who takes care of them. "The Pet Planning Committee, comprised of elders and team members is responsible for deciding the need for any additional animals and they are responsible for their diet, any shots and health care as well as making sure they are exercised." This is how it was decided to bring in Autumn. The preferred ratio of cats to people is about 1 in 20 to 30 and the ratio for dogs is about 1 per 30. Michelle told us that the cats pretty much stay at Dunbar Village year round. The dogs, who are working pretty hard giving each person just the attention they need, are given a few weeks vacation every year. This gives them the chance to just relax for awhile and rest up.
When talking about the philosophy of care at Dunbar, I asked Michelle about the stress of change and if some people felt a little lost out of their former surroundings. Michelle said, " An antidote to loneliness is companionship with plants, animals and children."
Growing plants, interacting with young people and have pets around that make you feel needed is a good thing. Being responsible for the cats and dogs and birds and fish is a very important job and it is very rewarding too.
On the therapy side of things, Michelle told us about a gift that Shasta has. She knew when one person was having a seizure and she stayed right there nudging and being present to give comfort. Pretty special. Rascal always knows when someone needs a little extra attention. Just petting and talking to Diamond or watching the birds playing with their toys is good for the soul.
In the neighborhood at Dunbar where Bridget lives her major responsibility is to hop on laps and let her fur be fluffed. So calming and relaxing for the fluffer and the fluffee. One thing that is very special with these lovely pets around is that they are wonderful icebreakers for the children who come to visit a family member who is staying there. The dog or cat or bird becomes a topic of conversation and most of the shyness at a new surrounding is reduced.
Michelle reminded us that Autumn was being adopted from the Hancock County Animal Shelter and that their very first dog, Brownie was a shelter dog too. During Hurricane Katrina, Brownie and one of the staff stayed behind to watch over the facility. Both did fine. These days, the pet staffers are included in the evacuation plan and will go with everyone else to the same location I would like to recommend a very good book, The Healing Power of Pets, written by Dr. Marty Becker. He dedicated his book to "All health care professionals who celebrate, protect, and nurture the integrative medicine concept of mind, body, and meaning and who use the healing power of pets to improve human health and well-being." So a big, big thank you to Michelle Daniel, the human staff and all the loving pets of Dunbar Village.
Keep you tail high and your feet dry,
Love, Daisy Mae


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