Dog has his day

SANDUSKY Mason doesn't look like a dog hard at work. In fact, if you didn't know bett
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Mason doesn't look like a dog hard at work.

In fact, if you didn't know better, you might think the black lab was lazy.

It's a dog's life.

He's a laid-back animal whose favorite pasttime seems to be stretching out on the carpet of the Special Assisted Living area of the Commons of Providence retirement community in Sandusky. His belly is often at the ready to obtain a soothing rub from anyone within reach.

Believe or not, Mason is doing his assigned job. His daily rounds at the facility include a morning jaunt into Lois Fox's room to collect dog biscuits. The rest of the day is spent wagging his tail, getting rubbed behind the ears, patted on the head and generally being adored by residents.

His mission: To provide cheer and comfort to the residents in the unit reserved for those residents suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

How'd Mason land such a gig? He wasn't always so lucky. The six- or seven-year-old lab, named after Mason Road, where police found the stray Feb. 28, had trouble finding a home due to his age.

Dog Warden Barb Knapp said she is supposed to keep dogs for only three days, but Mason had been at the pound for 12 days, waiting for someone to adopt him. When Sarah Koelsch, co-enrichment director for Special Assisted Living, went to the pound to find a pet to make her residents happier, Mason lucked out.

With the support of the new executive director at Commons of Providence, Stacy Terrell, Koelsch was searching for an older dog to keep the residents company.

"A lot of the residents grew up having dogs and cats," Koelsch said, describing how her residents light up when they see animals.

Terrell said he knew the dog would be a good idea - common sense told her the residents would enjoy a pet and research has long shown animals boost quality of life for older people.

"Animals enrich our lives," she said. "They enrich our lives with the spontaneity of play. They enrich our lives with the joy of friendship."

Koelsch wanted a big dog, one large enough to pet when a resident was in a wheelchair or in bed.

She also wanted "an older dog who doesn't run around a lot."

As she described her needs, a motionless Mason took it easy on the rug.

"Obviously, he fits the description," Koelsch said.

Knapp was ready to make a deal when Koelsch came calling.

"I sold her for the least amount I could," Knapp said.

Knapp called the veterinarian who serves the pound, Huron vet Dr. Marianne Socha. Socha agreed to support the project by donating the necessary neutering operation for Mason and all of the shots he needed.

Mason spends much of his new lease on life trailing behind Koelsch, who takes him home at night. He likes to carry around a monkey doll in his mouth and visit residents.

One of his first stops in the morning is to see Fox, 82, who feeds Mason dog treats.

"I leave the door open and he just comes in," Fox said. "He's our pride and joy. We always had black labs at home."

Mason has stayed sleek and healthy, avoiding the fate of an earlier dog who attended older people in the county.

Knapp said she donated an older dog years ago to the Erie County Care Facility, the county's nursing home. The dog didn't live very long, but he didn't die hungry.

"They fed him and fed him till he got really overweight. They fed him to death is pretty much what happened," Knapp said. "The dog's belly was dragging on the ground."