Home goes to dog and bird

DeWayne Bartels
Kay Hackonjos feeds the very popular Lily a treat.

When Lily wanders the halls of Eureka Apostolic Christian Home aimlessly many take notice, but do nothing about it. That is because Lily is a dog.

But, Lily is not just a dog. She is a tail-wagging beacon of companionship and compassion to the residents and staff.

The same can be said of Jimmy, except for the tail wagging. Jimmy is a cockatiel. Lily and Jimmy live at the facility bringing a spark of life to people who appreciate it.

A dog’s life

When Lily wanders into Kay Hackonjos’ room she knows something good is coming.

As Hackonjos’ hand reaches for a box on the night stand Lily’s tail begins to wag. It is a routine. She is reaching for a box of dog treats. Though

residents are only supposed to give Lily one treat she gets three from Hackonjos.

“I love her,” said Hackonjos. “I love her eyes.”

Brittany Gibbs, nursing unit coordinator, watches, smiling.

“That’s typical,” Gibbs said.

Lily, a service dog, is almost three, and has been at the facility for just under a year.

“She is a registered certified service dog,” Gibbs said. “She’s owned by Paws Giving Independence. We sponsor her.”

Activities director Sue Magnuson said a need was felt for residents to have contact with a dog. The feeling was it would give the home a more residential feel.

That was accomplished almost from the day she showed up. I recall we had a new resident who was not happy about being here. Lily walked into her room. She said, ‘I was having a bad day until she showed up.’ One of the priorities here is to make this feel like home,” Magnuson said.

Gibbs added, “She just goes around and visits patients. She can roam the halls of this floor at will. Normally Lily is one of the first things new people coming here see.”

Maurice Bond, a new resident, saw Lily right off when he entered the home.

“I like pets,” he said, petting Lily. “I like that she doesn’t shed.”

As Lily ate up the attention from Bond, Gibbs responded to the question of whether Lily suffered from lack of attention.

“She suffers, I think, from too much attention,” Gibbs said.

Lily, to the delight of staff and residents, has learned to shake hands. She will also roll over if the mood hits her.  

Lily, Gibbs said, has the staff trained. When she wants to get into or out of the dementia unit she simply lies down in front of the door and barks.

Gibbs, when asked if Lily or Jimmy was more popular, did not hesitate.

“Lily is by a long shot,” she said, smiling.

Bird talk

Jimmy, sits atop the shoulder of Deb Lockhart, skilled care unit coordinator, like an emperor surveying his territory.

Jimmy has been at the facility for about a year. His age is unknown.

He just appeared one day when the administrator, Tom Hoffman, showed up with him.

“I didn’t know anything about him being here. I met him when he flew right at me and scared me,” Lockhart said. “He’s grown on me. He’s here to entertain the residents.”

He excels at that job, Lockhart said.

“He entertains the staff, too,” she added.

Lockhart said Jimmy, like Lily, does not suffer from lack of attention.

Resident Pauline Rocke said Jimmy is a highlight of her day.

“He’s just such a special companion,” she said. “He’s a friend and pastime.”

For Marilyn Trent he became a beacon of hope.

“I came in here very depressed. He lights up my life,” Trent said.

“I’m one who likes to sleep in. But, I don’t mind getting up early when I hear him wolf whistling at 5:15 a.m.,” Trent said.

“He is worth $1 million to many of the residents here. He’s always happy.”

Lockhart and Trent laughed when told the staff downstairs said Lily was more popular than Jimmy by a long shot.

“They don’t know what they are talking about,” Lockhart said, laughing.

Trent nodded in agreement.

“I would also beg to differ. I’m a dog-lover,” Trent said.

“You expect a dog to be a friend. You don’t expect that from a bird.”