Puppies with a Purpose

By: | July 6, 2017

By Allison Babka for Ladue News

Sarah Javier, president and executive director of the Animal Protective Association (APA) of Missouri Adoption Center in Brentwood, didn’t intend for people to earn nicknames through the APA’s new puppy-cuddling program for seniors. But one woman took to her role so well that a moniker instantly became obvious: “The Dog Whisperer.”

“She holds the puppies, and they just fall asleep in her arms,” Javier says with a laugh. “And she’s just as sweet as she can be.”

Javier says there are plenty more seniors who are enjoying doggie kisses at Stonecrest at Clayton View in Richmond Heights, the site of the APA’s pilot foster program for older residents. Facilities around the St. Louis area already welcome animals for visits through the nonprofit’s PetReach effort, but there’s one key difference at Stonecrest – the puppies get to stay for slumber parties that sometimes last for weeks.

“We sort of took the idea from PetReach, where we were already going into these communities, and decided to build on an existing and wonderful partnership with these senior communities,” Javier says. “And the senior fostering program was born!”

The puppies that the nonprofit brings for the Stonecrest elders to foster are only a few weeks old, and Javier says that it’s a crucial time for the younglings. By living at the facility with the seniors, the dogs learn to socialize and can build up their immune systems. Once they’re older and healthier, the APA brings them back to the home office to be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and put up for permanent adoption. To date, Stonecrest has fostered three different pairs of puppies. The APA appoints a foster coordinator and provides all of the dog food – Best puppy food (we recommend), bowls, collars and other essentials to Stonecrest, but the seniors are responsible for perhaps the most important thing: love.

“When many of the older folks enter a senior living facility, they often have to leave their pets behind, and that can be very difficult,” Javier says. “So it gives them tremendous joy to be able to interact through the foster program. Some of them have said that they interact with [the pups] every opportunity they get!”

And boy, do they interact. Javier says that residents play and cuddle with the puppies in common areas or outside, “checking out” a dog like a library book. Assistants keep track of the pairs and help with cleanup duties. Seeing the bonds that the seniors make with their new furry friends is heartwarming, and though the program just debuted in April, Javier already has plenty of stories.

“One gentleman was sharing how he always had animals growing up as a boy, and this really took him back to his childhood and made him feel young again,” Javier says. “He said that he and his wife spend every moment that they can get with the puppies.

“Another woman is not very verbal, but I know what I witnessed when she held the puppies,” Javier continues. “The joy on her face was unmistakable. You didn’t need words to see how meaningful it was and how important this was to her.”

But puppy love isn’t the only thing the seniors are getting out of the APA’s partnership with Stonecrest. Studies have shown that animals can be therapeutic for humans, bringing a healing comfort to those with difficult medical needs. Interacting also keeps residents’ joints limber and often brings reserved folks out of their rooms to socialize more frequently.

“It’s good for helping their cardiac health because it gets them up and moving, walking around with the puppy. It’s also good for their arthritis because they have the movement of their hands when they’re petting or brushing the animal,” says Javier, whose professional background includes work in pediatrics and mental health. “Moreover, it helps with their mental health and their awareness, giving them a purpose for getting up in the morning and feeling like they have someone to take care of. It’s very beneficial.”

Javier says that the residential program has been a win for the APA. At its adoption center, the nonprofit organization already has seen more than 600 puppies come through for adoption in 2017, and it receives an influx of animals during the warmer months, so building its program with Stonecrest has been helpful.

“Having fosters is always a need, and the senior living facilities were the perfect fit for that,” Javier says. “So we started the conversation, and people were very interested in doing it. It has been so wonderful.”

The APA hopes to add kittens to the senior foster mix soon, plus Javier says that once employees fine-tune details, they’ll be expanding the residential program to other facilities. “We’re currently doing orientation with two additional facilities, both of which are almost ready to receive their puppies or kittens,” Javier says.

“We’ve had another facility that just decided to adopt a dog for their residents, and that dog is very spoiled,” Javier says with a laugh. “We recently started reaching out to our other partners, and many of them are very interested in doing this. Our hope is that we can get fostering into every facility because it’s such a win-win and such a wonderful thing.”

Volunteers and foster pet parents are the lifeblood of the APA, Javier says, and that’s what will bring the nonprofit closer to her dream scenario of every adoptable animal having a safe and loving home.

“We know that we need help from the community, we need help from volunteers, and we need help from people willing to open up their homes and their hearts to foster these animals until they can get to their forever homes,” Javier says. “We also know that for the senior living residents, it brings so much purpose and joy to their lives, so we’re really helping people and pets at the same time.

“And that’s what we’re really all about – our mission is to bring people and pets together. This program is helping us achieve our mission in an innovative way. It’s meaningful.”

It’s Doggone Adorable

By: | June 30, 2017

Stonecrest at Clayton View Teams with the APA to Bring its Residents Some Cuddly Medicine

ST. LOUIS, MO — Through anecdotes and research, it’s well-known that pets can help people of all ages reduce stress, loneliness, depression, lower blood pressure and more. However, as a person ages, they often can no longer sufficiently care for a pet on a daily basis. As part of its “Vibrant Life” program, Stonecrest at Clayton View has recently teamed with the Animal Protective Association of Missouri (APA) to find a way that animals, specifically puppies and kittens, can be a part of the extended family at Stonecrest and enrich the lives of their residents.

This past February, Uber partnered with the APA and brought a few puppies for 15 minutes of cuddles to Stonecrest at Clayton View, the newly opened residential care community located in Richmond Heights, through its #UberPuppies project. This sparked an idea with the staff at Stonecrest, as some of their employees had occasionally brought their own dogs in for a day here and there, but nothing on a regular basis.

“We had been trying to figure out how to incorporate a way for our residents to interact with pets,” said Rachel Griffhorn, executive director of Stonecrest at Clayton View. “After Uber had a day earlier this year to bring puppies from the APA for a short visit, the idea for a more permanent program just blossomed from there.”

“The APA has a program called PetReach,” Sarah Javier, president and executive director, APA said. “It’s a program where volunteers bring pets for short visits to residents of senior living communities. When we spoke with Stonecrest, they wanted to expand the program beyond short visits. We worked with Stonecrest to develop a program that allows their community to foster puppies or kittens for a few weeks at a time. The project just came together at the end of April and we are thrilled with the results.” The APA foster care partnership is a win-win for Stonecrest and the APA.

How the foster program with Stonecrest works:
Fostering helps the APA reduce exposure to illness during the early weeks of an animal’s life and provides critical socialization for the animals making them well-adjusted and eager to interact with all those they meet. These things make for a wonderfully adoptable pet that is happy and healthy. The puppies and kittens remain at the Stonecrest at Clayton View three to five weeks until they are old enough to be spayed/neutered and then adopted into their forever home (they must be at least 8 weeks old before they can be adopted). While at Stonecrest, the APA provides all needed supplies, including food, pet enclosures, medical care and vaccinations. Stonecrest residents and staff members are responsible for basic care, but most importantly, lots of love and belly rubs.

Benefits for Stonecrest and the APA:
Expanding the partnership with Stonecrest helps the APA meet the demand for animal foster families. The residents at Stonecrest also benefit from the foster program. Seniors who participate with pets are more active as they walk with the puppies and engage with them, or simply pick them up – reaching and stretching more often. Having puppies available for cuddling also brings residents out of their rooms and encourages interaction with animals and those around them. And finally, having a puppy or kitten that depends on the residents gives them a sense of purpose and a reason for getting up in the morning. As a result, depression is lessened and the outlook on life is more positive and hopeful. It’s a special kind of medicine and care that only a tiny animal can provide.

“Our residents love everything about this partnership. In just the short time this partnership has been going on we’ve seen definite improvements with our residents who engage with the puppies,” Erika Holmes, director of the Vibrant Life Program at Stonecrest at Clayton View said. “It is good for our residents because it gives them purpose and makes them happy. It can also be counted as cardiovascular exercise if they are walking the puppies. It is therapeutic for their hands as well as their soul. The program’s benefits are truly endless.”

“For more than 30 years, the APA has partnered with the senior community to further the relationship between people and pets,” Javier said. “When exploring innovative and unique ways to meet the needs of our most vulnerable animals, it just made sense to explore the expansion of one of our longest-standing partnerships. Meeting the needs of our puppies and kittens while bringing joy and purpose to the senior living residents – it is the best kind of care there is.”

About Stonecrest at Clayton View
Stonecrest at Clayton View, located at 8825 Eager Road in Richmond Heights, Mo., opened on October 31, 2016. The community consists of 55 private, assisted-living apartments. In addition, there are 26 suites within a specially designed memory-care neighborhood. The cornerstone of senior living at Stonecrest is its resident-centered care and its signature “Vibrant Life” program. Working with each resident, the staff at Stonecrest creates an individualized care plan tailored to the resident’s needs, personal preferences and flexibility – balancing the support needed with the independence desired. Stonecrest Senior Living is a partnership between NorthPoint Development and Integral Senior Living. Currently Stonecrest operates communities in Kansas City, Mo. and Richmond Heights, Mo. During 2017, Stonecrest will open additional communities in Town & Country, Mo.; Columbus, Ohio.; Troy Mich.; Rochester Hills, Mich.; and Indianapolis, Ind.

About APA of Missouri
The APA is located at 1705 South Hanley Road, St. Louis, MO 63144. Founded in 1922, the Animal Protective Association of Missouri is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing people and pets together, advancing humane education and creating programs beneficial to the human/animal bond. Since the beginning, the APA has been a leader in the humane treatment of animals in the St. Louis area and focuses on adoption, wellness and education. The APA foster care program has grown rapidly in the past few years with 562 animals fostered in 2016 and 434 animals already benefitting from the foster program in 2017. In 2016, the APA found homes for 2,684 homeless animals. www.apamo.org

Fluffy new residents join a Clayton senior living facility

By: | June 14, 2017

At its Clayton View location, Stonecrest residents can dote on adorable foster dogs from the APA Adoption Center. The program benefits both animals and humans.

By St. Louis Magazine

Tasha and Tessa, two five-and-a-half-week pitbull mixes, were left on an abandoned property in southern Missouri. The APA Adoption Center took them in, and now they’re getting showered with love—by the seniors at Stonecrest’s Clayton location.

Bernie Landau visits the pups daily with his wife, between sessions of model ship-building. “They do much to enhance my morale,” he says.

“And I visit them every chance I get,” adds Darlene Murray, who gets called the “dog whisperer” because she’s so good at lulling the animals to sleep.

The APA’s new foster program brings new arrivals to stay with Stonecrest, where staff and seniors feed, walk, and entertain the dogs until the animals are old enough to be adopted. Tasha and Tessa are the second litter. Sarah Javier, president and executive director of the APA, says that the program’s going swimmingly since it began in April. In the program’s earliest stages, Javier recalls one senior citizen cuddling a dog and saying, “I will love you forever!”

“That’s,” says Javier, “when I knew the program would be perfect.”

Besides taking pressure off shelters—which can’t always accommodate every pet—the program benefits both dogs and humans.

For Landau, it reminds him of younger days. “I grew up with pets—interacting with them, them putting up with me,” he says. According to studies, there are lots of mental health benefits to interacting with dogs. And, Javier adds, some scientists think that playing with dogs can improve arthritis (by providing a reason to move hands) and lower blood pressure.

The dogs get something out of it, too. As abandoned animals, they might not have the best experiences with people. And the less socialized a young animal is, the harder it can be to adopt the pet. But with dozens of people doting on them, a few weeks at Stonecrest have made APA’s abandoned puppies happy and well-behaved.

The program is still young, only about two months into its execution. But the APA has big plans: Because the program is so beneficial for shelters, seniors, and animals, they want to expand

“Our hope would be to get puppies and kitties into every senior facility,” says Javier.

Summer Classes at the APA

By: | June 8, 2017

Safety With Animals

Saturday, June 24th at 11am
Saturday, July 29th at 11am

Kids learn the ways dogs and cats communicate, the proper way to approach a dog and what to do if approached by a stray animal. Ages 4+.

Caring for Your Cat

Wednesday, June 28th at 1pm
Wednesday, July 12th at 1pm
Friday, July 14th at 1pm
Friday, July 21st at 1pm
Wednesday, August 2nd at 1pm

Attendees will learn about things to consider when adopting a cat, how to care for a cat once they are home, how to best interact with a cat and interpreting a cat’s body language. This class is open to children and adults of all ages. There is no cost to attend, however, donations to support our animals are always welcome.

Classes are held at the APA (1705 S. Hanley Road, St. Louis, MO 63144).

To reserve a space for any of these classes, please email assistant@apamo.org or call 314-645-4610.

Love at First Hug

By: | May 22, 2017

As a part of our Transfer Program, Boomer arrived at the APA Adoption Center along with nine other dogs from The Animal Shelter of Texas County on January 26th, 2016. Boomer was a sweet and outgoing Labrador/Pit Bull mix and we knew he would quickly find a home.

His lucky day came on January 31st, 2016 when Danielle came to the APA looking for a companion. She planned on just visiting, not adopting a dog she saw on our website. When that dog was not the right fit, she decided to meet Boomer. Danielle said “The second he was brought into the room he wrapped his arms around my neck to give me a hug and rested his head on my shoulder. It was then, at that very moment, I knew he was the perfect dog for me and I couldn’t leave him behind.” Luckily, Danielle knew that transitioning from a shelter to home life can be stressful for a dog so she didn’t give up on him after he destroyed the blinds in the house not once, but three times. She worked through the separation anxiety and says he has been an amazing blessing in her life as her certified emotional therapy animal.

Boomer and Danielle visited the Adoption Center on the anniversary of his one year adoption (his Gotcha Day) with donations for the rest of the APA pets waiting for their forever homes. The staff at the APA was excited to see Boomer and learn he is training to get his service dog certification!