Dogs and cats reign at Plymouth Place in LaGrange Park
Roy Erbes plays with his dog, Liz, at Plymouth Place Senior Living. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: August 13, 2012 6:01AM
LAGRANGE PARK — Some of the best recruiters for the Plymouth Place Retirement Center in LaGrange Park are friendly and outgoing, but they don’t say a word.
Treated like celebrities, they also serve as official greeters and bring smiles with just a few wags of their tails, drawing a crowd in no time.
“I would not have come here if I couldn’t bring Moll,” said Jan McDermed, who moved to a first-floor apartment in May from Western Springs with Moll Flanders, a stately white standard poodle named for the racy character in a novel.
Although Moll had to give up her back yard, the adjustment wasn’t difficult. She was a frequent visitor accompanying McDermed to visit her husband, William, at the center.
“She has a very soft head, and the people loved her in Greg’s Place,” McDermed said, referring to the center’s unit for patients with dementia. “My husband would really perk up when she came.”
Carol Ahlberg, who moved to Plymouth Place a year ago, said the center’s pet-friendly policy clinched her decision to move there with Suzie, a 7-year-old mixed breed.
“She’s a very sweet and lovable dog.” Ahlberg said. “I wondered if she’d have trouble adjusting, but she is very adaptable and likes it here.”
Ahlberg said she enjoys getting out and walking her pooch, taking a look at the neighborhood and the grounds with a pond, ducks, geese and frogs.
“I was surprised there’s no extra deposit to have a pet,” she said. “You have to have a lot of information for the health records and someone designated to take care of her if something happens to me.”
Dale Lilburn, chief executive officer at Plymouth Place, paved the way for pets by bringing Elsa, now 10, to work with him each day since she was a 7-week-old yellow Labrador puppy. Five residents now have pets, and family members are encouraged to bring pets to visit loved ones in the skilled nursing care center.
“It’s still not the norm at retirement centers, and I don’t understand that,” Lilburn said. “People talk to the dogs, and it brings people together.”
Pets are required to be leashed in common areas, and owners must clean up after their dogs. Owners walk their dogs themselves, including Ray Erbes, who uses a walker, while he takes out Liz, a 5-year-old Yorkshire terrier.
“Sometimes maybe when I’m not feeling too well, she comes and sits on my lap and gives me a couple licks,” Erbes said. “Sometimes she sympathizes with me. She’s a tremendous amount of company.”
Except for the dining room, Liz accompanies Erbes throughout the day to the workout room and while visiting friends.
“She goes to the groomer regularly, and they trim her up and giver her a bath,” he said. “I giver her a bath in between times in the kitchen sink. When she sees me with the towels, she runs under the bed.”
Though outnumbered by canines, a few cats call Plymouth Place home.
“Sophie comes to the door every time I come in and if she hears a knock,” explained owner Betty Faulkner, who moved in a year ago. “I got her from a farm near Galena when she was 3. She just turned 4 in April.”