Center’s visitors put ‘Sparkle’ in residents’ eyes

Center’s visitors put ‘Sparkle’ in residents’ eyes

Posted: Friday, January 7, 2011 6:43 am
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
It’s a toss-up as to who is the most popular resident of the Etheridge House in Union City — Gunner, Reggie, Bingo or Sparkle.
Gunner has been coming to the assisted living center the longest, but he has virtually outgrown the center.
Reggie and Bingo roam the halls daily visiting with the other residents. Sparkle spends some time with the other residents, but his time is normally spent flitting around his cage.
All four are residents of the animal variety — a Great Dane, pug, dachshund and a parakeet.
Cindy Cox has been the administrator of the facility since it opened in 1997. Just over a year ago, she adopted a Great Dane puppy she named Gunner.
She began bringing Gunner to work with her, and that’s where it all began.
A large cage was set up for Gunner just outside Mrs. Cox’s office, but Gunner was more likely to be found touring the center and visiting with some of its 25 residents. Gunner has literally grown too big to stay at the center daily, but Mrs. Cox does bring him by for periodic visits. When she first started bringing Gunner to the Etheridge House, he was only a few weeks old and about 16 pounds. Today, Gunner is about 18 months old and weighs about 140 pounds.
He was the pioneer of the animal program at the Etheridge House, however, and he opened the door for Reggie, Bingo and even Sparkle.
Once the tradition was started by Mrs. Cox, other members of the center staff began bringing their pets to work, too.
“Marla (Crabtree) has been bringing Reggie up here for more than a year,” Mrs. Cox said.
Ms. Crabtree is a licensed practical nurse and is one of 15 staff members at the Etheridge House. Reggie rarely leaves her side but, when he does, he is quick to cuddle up with any number of the residents.
The amiable pug developed a special bond with one of the residents who has since had to be moved to a nursing home.
“She said he was the best electric blanket she ever had,” Mrs. Cox said about Ann Johns.
Mrs. Cox said Ms. Crabtree still takes Reggie out to see Ms. Johns and, when they visit, the bond is obvious. Mrs. Cox said Reggie will crawl up alongside Ms. Johns and when she puts her arm around him, he will lie there quiet as a mouse with his friend.
When asked about how the animals fit into the daily routine at the center, a large smile spread across Mrs. Cox’s face. “I just decided that for people who love animals, that animals are a very vital part of their well-being,” she said.
There is a Facebook page for the Etheridge House featuring dozens of images of the dogs visiting with residents of the center.
Reggie and Bingo freely roam the halls of the center, making stops at residents’ rooms for a visit … and possibly a treat.
Sparkle lives in a cage set up near the back of the facility. The parakeet enjoys hopping around residents’ shoulders and will perch atop their fingers for a face-to-face visit. It’s difficult to discern who benefits the most from the animal arrangement, the residents or the pets. What is obvious is the arrangement has definitely brightened the mood around the Etheridge House.
Published in The Messenger 1.6.11

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