Like the countless number of seniors looking to downsize their homes for retirement, JoAnn Coffman combed through dozens of retirement communities in the Clovis-Fresno area.
Coffman didn’t have a lengthy list of requirements as long as she could bring her dog, Chase.
“Just like you’re going to chase a ball — that’s how I got his name,” Coffman says.
The deal was sealed when she learned that The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens accepted and welcomed pets like family.
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“The fact that I could bring my dog was the deciding factor,” Coffman says. “I would be very lost without him.”
Now, five years later, Coffman and Chase live in the Sequoia building. They visit the dog-friendly park, which is nearby their one-bedroom apartment, and he also accompanies Coffman and a group of residents to Woodward Park in the spring.
“He’s always glad to see you,” Coffman says about Chase. “He’s a comfort if you aren’t feeling well. He wants to cuddle to see if you’re OK.”
The bond between Coffman and Chase ignited a spark for Melissa Sanders to seek opportunities to work with the Central California SPCA.
In June 2016, the lifetime enrichment coordinator connected with the CCSPCA in hopes of bringing pet therapy to TSJG. It resulted in Thalia Arenas bringing her dog, Pequeña (“Becky”), to the healthcare center on a monthly basis.
Residents interact with the Cairn Terrier during the session, helping them to release stress.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pets provide a multitude of health benefits including decreases in cortisol and cholesterol levels, blood pressure, anxiety and feelings of isolation. Pets also provide comfort, encourage communication and offer opportunities for socialization and friendship.
Case in point: Chase is a very familiar — and popular — face at TSJG. He has made friends with Ceasar, a Chihuahua; Aspen, a West Highland White Terrier; and Suzy, a Cocker Spaniel.
Two months after pet therapy was introduced at TSJG, Sanders introduced residents to Papers for Puppies. Each morning, residents and team members bring their old newspapers to Sanders for collection.
Next, at the end of each week, she delivers the pile to the CCSPCA on Hughes Avenues. Sanders says more than 450 newspapers are collected each week.
Old newspapers are used to line kennels at the nonprofit humane society. The initiative is a simple way for residents to volunteer, Sanders says.
“I would say, on average, we donate about 1,200 to 1,400 newspapers each month,” she adds.
The large amount of newspapers donated is essential since more than 30,000 dogs and cats — as well as rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters, pigeons, turtles and snakes — walk through the doors of the CCSPCA annually.
With the success of Papers for Puppies, Sanders is looking forward to continuing the partnership with the CCSPCA. She also hopes to work with Linda Stolling, volunteer services manager for the CCSPCA, to host orientations on ways for residents to volunteer from home.