When Rosewood Villa Assisted Living Community recently got the chance to invite community members to visit, it didn’t take long to decide to host a pet parade. Since critters hold a broad appeal for both staff and residents, all that was left was to invite the rest of Bellingham to bring their own animals for the afternoon.

Plans got underway shortly after April 1st, when Rosewood came under the management of Senior Services of America. “With that [change], our community relations director gets to host community-wide events,” says Executive Director Melinda Herrera. “That’s not something we had the opportunity to do before, so we were really excited to host an event.” For its first event, Rosewood Villa was very pleased with the turnout it had.

Dalton brought his pooch, Wander, who was a giant hit with the crowd. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Hosting an event centered on pets was a natural choice for Herrera, since Rosewood already welcomes animal companions to live with residents. “We do have weight requirements — 25 pounds and under —and the individual needs to be able to take the dog out for bathroom breaks, clean a litter box, and generally clean up after their pets,” Herrera says. “But yes, they are able to bring their companions with them.”

The staff are also big fans of furry visitors, and often bring their own pooches to work with them. “We have medical technicians and caregivers who bring their dogs in, as well as our wellness coordinator and director of wellness,” says Herrera. “Mostly it’s our nursing department, because they have a little more flexibility than some of the others.”

Business Office Manager Tori White kept Gustavo cool in a tropically inspired outfit. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

For the big day, the staff rolled out a red carpet underneath the awning that runs along the front of the building. They invited spectators to sit in the shade. The dogs began to congregate, greeting each other as well as making new two-legged friends.

After parading past all of the residents and guests a couple of times, some of the pooches came back for more specialized events. There was a Best Trick competition, as well as one for Best Smile and another for Best Costume. “One lady brought two of her dogs and made costumes for them,” Herrera says. “She made them on poster board, with a rose drawn on one, and then a piece of wood on the other, so their costumes were ‘Rose-Wood.’ That was so clever and so cute; it just tickled me to see it.”

Kris, a care manager at Right At Home, dressed Boomer up for the occasion. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Any time a community gathers together, it’s a great opportunity to roll out refreshments, and in addition to an array of cold beverages, the kitchen presented a selection of snacks. That also gave them an opportunity to indulge in a little more cleverness. “We did everything with a dog theme: we had corn dogs and called our popcorn ‘pup-corn,’ and had ‘pup-cakes’ for everyone,” says Herrera.

While the animals are great motivation all by themselves, another factor behind the event was the chance to finally socialize after a long period of isolation. “After dealing with COVID for such a long time, our residents have really missed the activities we had been able to do before. So, our residents were really excited to be able to host a community event again,” Herrera says. “It was a lot of fun, and we’ll do it annually. I think that, over time, it will just get bigger and better.”

Care Coordinator Emily shows off “the boys,” Gizmo (left) and Cooper, who are regular visitors at Rosewood. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

Another reason to continue inviting guests to Rosewood is the chance to partner with community organizations. This time, the Whatcom Humane Society was on hand to participate, and Herrera looks forward to inviting other organizations — as well as community members — in the future. “I think there will be a number of events we will be doing on a monthly basis that will bring people to Rosewood Villa, so that they can see the amazing work that we’re doing with our residents, and how we are hoping to give back to the community in one way or another.”


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