Residents at The Palms at Ponte Vedra enjoy assisted living with their pets

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Some residents of The Palms at Ponte Vedra didn’t move to the facility alone, they came with furry friends.

Arden Dismuke, who moved into the assisted living facility one year ago, said her dog Flopsy — named after her one floppy ear — has helped her make a smooth transition from North Carolina into the Ponte Vedra community.

"I couldn't be here without her," she said. "Every day I'm just grateful that I have her. She really truly is my friend, and I really have appreciated having a dog here."

Dismuke thinks her dog might have been abused by a man before she got her, but the Palms at Ponte Vedra resident said Flopsy is happy and healthy today.

"She's getting plump because the Palms is a very wonderful place to eat," she added. "She's very healthy."

Stephanie Lane, another resident, said she wouldn't have moved to the Palms without her 12-year-old dog, Lucy. 

"I bought (Lucy) so they wouldn't put her down," she said. "I took her home, and I took her straight to the vet and it cost almost $1,300 to have the kennel cough fixed ... she sleeps with me at night, and she barks when I'm not in the room with her."

Lane, a former teacher, said she took her dog to school and raised her there for the first four months of her life. The Palms resident was required to submit Lucy's medical records, ensure her shots were up to date and that she was on the proper medicine in order to move into The Palms with her pet.

According to the Palms' pet policy, all pets must be on a leash when in the interior and exterior common areas of the community. Only one pet is allowed, including a small dog no bigger than 20 pounds, a cat or a bird. Additionally, pet owners must prevent their pets from causing any disturbance — which constitutes a breach of the quiet enjoyment of others — and the pet must not pose a risk or danger to anyone in the community, among other requirements. 

Margaret Gallardo, a volunteer pet therapy handler from Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD), said she called and asked about bringing a therapy dog to The Palms to make residents happy. After receiving an invite, Gallardo brought the dog, named Coco, to the facility but unexpectedly ended up at the Morningside memory care unit. 

"I wasn't sure if I was emotionally equipped for that, but it turned out to be an amazing experience," she said. 

Gallardo noted that bringing Coco to The Palms has made a significant impact on those who interact with her.

"When I bring her over, they're all smiles, especially if they still have cognitive abilities," she said. "They constantly refer to their previous animal, whether it was 20 to 30 years ago. They love to talk about the dogs they had or have at home ... it helps to stir the memory."

Gallardo said Coco often does tricks for the residents, and they love it.

"Coco loves to do tricks, and she can do them a hundred times," she said. "They sit around, and she'll do it over and over again, and they just think it's wonderful."

Jane Weden, the daughter of The Palms resident Marilyn McGuckin, said she lives around the corner and visits the Palms almost every day with her dog, Quirky. McGuckin recently moved to the memory care unit and, according to Weden, the residents there love the pup. 

"He brings a lot of love," Weden said. "He's just so sweet and as soon as (McGuckin) sees him, her eyes light up. I usually hold him because I don't want him to run around, but all the ladies and even the guys that are there are like, 'Can we pet him? Is it okay? Can we pet him?' Some of them even grab him and give him a little kiss on the forehead. You can tell they're dog lovers."

For more information on The Palms at Ponte Vedra, visit www.palmsatpontevedra.com or call (904) 686-3700.

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