Terri Leibold loves being around her daughter’s dogs, but she hadn’t gotten to pet them since July. That’s when she moved into The Village of the Heights, which wasn’t allowing human or canine visitors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leibold got a peek at the pooches a few weeks ago, when Paxton Leibold brought her Labrador mix named Turbo and the Mastiff named Otto. But they had to enjoy each other’s company from afar, with Terri looking down from a second-floor balcony while Paxton and her dogs remained in the parking lot.
They had more of an up-close visit last Saturday morning at the assisted-living community at 1407 Studewood St., where Turbo placed third in a dog costume contest as part of a “Howl-O-Ween” celebration. Terri, 63, was able to pet Turbo as he paraded past residents while dressed in what she called a “cute” bunny outfit.
“This one in particular is like her best friend,” Paxton said. “She had just, like, the biggest smile.”
Smiles flowed freely on a pleasant, sunny morning at The Village of the Heights, where about 30 residents gathered outside to watch the pet parade and vote for their favorite dogs and costumes. The dogs were a mix of breeds and sizes and owned by residents’ family members, friends and members of the community, and they sported costumes such as Batman, Wonder Woman, a bucking horse from a rodeo and a prison inmate wearing black-and-white stripes and a necklace that said, “Bad Pet.”
Lynn Wallace, the chief marketing officer for The Village of the Heights, served as master of ceremonies and also joined the fun by wearing a witch costume. She said the event served as a money and dog food drive for AniMeals on Wheels, which provides food for senior’s pets, much like Meals on Wheels delivers food for seniors.
Wallace said the parade also was a treat for residents, who were not allowed to have visitors from March until about a month ago because of COVID-19 and the risks it poses to the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
“We’ve been able to now open our doors. Families have been able to come see them, and we thought, ‘One thing we’re missing is all the pets,’” Wallace said. “We just thought, ‘You know what, we’re going to bring the joy to them today.’ And we just thought this was a great occasion.”
The residents who sat outside during the pooch parade, while wearing masks and staying a few feet apart from each other, appeared to enjoy the experience. Some, like Karen Smith, petted some of the dogs as they walked by.
“It’s therapy,” she said. “They bring such happiness to us.”