Print This Article The Wichita Eagle Back to web version
Friday, July 25, 2014

Aging Matters: Pets fill other needs than just companionship

By Phyllis Spade

Everybody knows Charlie.

And Brandy. And Sir Honey, Katie, Chester and several other four-legged residents at the retirement facility I call home.

Correction: They don’t all have four legs, and Katie is just an occasional guest from Tulsa whenever her family visits their mother.

Charlie doesn’t realize he has but three legs. He hasn’t a clue that as a “handicapped” Chihuahua, he should slow down. Nor does he withdraw and feel sorry for his lot in life. Instead, he’s a bundle of love. Love for everybody, love for doggie treats, and — most especially — love for the “old lady” he adopted during one of the monthly visits of rescued dogs the humane society volunteers bring every month to cheer our shut-ins.

Chester is another legend. The huge, obese lazybones strolls sedately on his leash, mostly headed to a warm windowsill. A few residents harbor birds, and several spend a minute or two every day, determined to teach our resident lovebirds to speak. The guys and gals won’t take no for an answer, but the colorful birds are just as determined.

For the old and alone, pets can provide more than just companionship. Everybody feels a deep-seated need to be needed. The human gets important outdoor exercise because a dog must be walked every day. And groomed. Maybe, medicated. Tabby’s litter box requires regular attention, as does the cockatoo’s cage. Not to mention keeping them all well-fed.

Many of my resident friends focus on floral or foliage “pets.” Windows display pot after pot of colorful blossoms or lush greenery from the ubiquitous philodendron to the exotic orchid. Windowsill gardens fill the downsized lifestyle for frustrated gardeners missing their tomato plants or cucumber vines or cornstalks. And out front, large pots of blooming beauties welcome the watering cans wielded by resident volunteers.

When I visited Botanica the other day, I was again reminded how much I missed my years of involvement with that tranquil plot of paradise.

If you haven’t been there for years — or unbelievably, forever! — it’s worth the moments and the small admission just to stroll down the fully accessible walkways. And maybe just “set a spell” and breathe in the magic.

Or drive up to visit the adoptable four- (or three-) legged friends on North Hillside. One warning: you might find yourself driving home with an extra passenger!

Phyllis Spade, 87, has made Sedgwick Plaza her home for the past six years. She welcomes your comments at phylace@yahoo.com.

© 2012 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.kansas.com