Fairfax seniors embrace canine companion

Publish Date:

Friday, July 26, 2013

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News Organization:

Fairfax Times

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McLean-based Sunrise Senior Living finally has gone completely to the dogs — in a good way.

Its facility at Braddock Glen in Fairfax has become the final Sunrise senior living facility in Fairfax County to adopt a dog.

Kuma, an 11-year-old Shiba Inu, is the facility’s newest resident.

“At Sunrise, we understand the wonder of pets and warmly welcome them into our communities. In fact, each Sunrise community has its own pets. Currently there are four Sunrise senior communities in Fairfax County and all have their own dogs,” said Senior Director of Operations Paul M. Kelley.

Sunrise of Fairfax has a poodle mix named Abby Sunrise; Sunrise of Fair Oaks has a Shih Tzu named Song Ye; Sunrise at George Mason has a Shih Tzu named Zhao, and, of course, now there is Kuma at Braddock Glen.

The smallest of the Japanese native dog breeds, the Shiba Inu is alert and agile with keen senses, and also is an excellent watchdog and companion, according to the American Kennel Club, which first recognized the breed in 1992. “I have a Shiba Inu myself,” Kelley said. “So I am very familiar with the breed. They are very well-behaved and do not bark much.”

Medical studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that seniors with dogs have, on average, fewer doctor visits and exhibit lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol when compared to non-pet owners. Senior dog owners also generally enjoy improved physical activity — spending more time outdoors and walking about twice as often — as non-owners. Older dog owners also experience less stress and loneliness, better nutrition and a stronger focus on the present. In addition, the companionship that pets provide can motivate seniors to become more involved in daily activities and in socializing, according to the CDC.

“In addition, we at Sunrise partner with many dog rescue groups to take senior dogs and others that would likely not otherwise get adopted,” Kelley said. “So we are helping the dogs in that way as well.”

“The residents of Sunrise at Braddock Glen are thrilled to have Kuma join our family,” said Antionette Doublin, executive director at Braddock Glen, who officially adopted Kuma and is responsible for his care. “He is the perfect dog for us, and as an older dog, he is in the perfect place. At Sunrise we champion the quality of life for seniors, so why not a senior dog?”

Many residents at the Braddock Glen facility already have fallen in love with their newest member.

“I lived on a farm in Clifton and always loved dogs,” said resident Larry Cobb. “I really like having Kuma here. He really makes it seem more like home.”

“He’s such a good dog,” added resident Janis Beiging.

“He really is special,” concluded resident Maxye Gunderson. “He fits right in.”

Kuma was adopted by the center from the nonprofit DC Shiba Inu Rescue (DCSIR.org), run by Nathalie Abutaha of Manassas and Chad Snyder of Olney, Md. “It was our first time adopting out to a facility as opposed to a residential owner,” Abutaha said. “But it was a perfect match.”

Snyder said that because Kuma is an older dog and has some connective tissue issues with his hind legs and some trouble with his vision, the Fairfax senior living facility was perfect for him.

“A huge factor in allowing the adoption was that the facility was constructed for the care and comfort of senior human beings, so it has very few stairs, open spaces, lots of light — everything that Kuma also benefits from,” he said.

Now that they have seen how well the adoption by a senior care facility has gone for one dog, both Abutaha and Snyder are excited about similar adoption opportunities in the future.

“Sunrise at Braddock Glen has proven itself to be a loving, caring community, and we are thrilled that the people there have opened their hearts and doors to a senior dog who undoubtedly would have been otherwise euthanized in a shelter,” Snyder said. “We can only hope that other assisted-living and senior care facilities follow its example and consider adopting a rescue dog to enhance their communities and enrich the lives of their residents,” Abutaha added

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