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OLD DOG FINDS NEW LIFE AT SENIORS HOME.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

Emily was back where she belonged Wednesday - chilling out with the older crowd because the younger one was driving her crazy.

The 10-year-old bichon frise - blind in one eye with a cataract in the other - moved into her new digs at Sunrise Assisted Living of Woodland Hills.

The 102-bed facility opened a few weeks ago with 15 residents. Emily makes 16.

She got lucky. Most dogs who outlive their owners wind up in an animal shelter with little or no hope of being adopted by a family looking for a cute puppy for their kids.

No one wants an old dog - no one except old people.

``She belonged to a pair of seniors,'' says Caroline Rose, who has spent the last 28 years operating a shelter that specializes in finding homes for dogs that have outlived their owners.

``The wife passed away from a stroke, and her husband, who wasn't too well, went to live with his son. Emily went along, but the children in the household were making her a nervous wreck. They were driving her crazy. She needed to be with seniors.

``When they brought Emily to me I promised I'd try to find her a home where she could be cuddled again by older people.''

A week later, Emily caught her lucky break.

Barb Valasquez, assistance dog program director for the Sam Simon Foundation, stopped by Catherine's ranch looking for an older dog that would be a perfect fit for a senior retirement home opening in Woodland Hills.

``When I met Emily I knew she was the one,'' Valasquez said.

The Sam Simon Foundation was organized two years ago by Sam Simon, the Emmy Award-winning co-creator of ``The Simpsons.''

``When I got in the fortunate position of being able to start my own foundation, I was struck by how you're forced to choose between helping animals or helping people,'' Simon said.

``Why couldn't you do both? A lot of seniors living in retirement homes had dogs when they were younger and able to care for them. They miss them.

``What better than to give a senior citizen a senior dog to be their friend, and make their retirement facility really feel like home again.''

Nothing better, says Sylvia Morris, who moved into the Sunrise facility on May 2 after living 54 years in her Burbank home, where there was always a dog around to love.

``You have to realize how important it is for a dog to have a human being to love it, and vice versa,'' Sylvia said as she waited for Emily to arrive. ``Believe me, Emily is going to be loved around here.''

The newest resident arrived after lunch, sniffing around her new surroundings and relaxing after finding no kids.

She met her new neighbors, was cuddled for a while, then went looking for a place to take a nap. A few offered their rooms.

``Emily will be staying wherever she wants to stay,'' said Homa Poosti, executive director of the facility. ``She has the run of the place.''

It's policy that each Sunrise home - five in the San Fernando Valley and two in Ventura County - has a house dog and a house cat. Poosti's still looking for a senior cat.

``If our residents had a pet at home, they should have one here, too, because this is their home now,'' she said.

Emily's, too.

Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com

TO LEARN MORE

--For information on the Sam Simon Foundation, call (888) DOG-SPAY or log on to www.samsimonfoundation.org. For Rose's senior dog shelter, call (818) 888-7613.

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Sylvia Morris, 87, spends time with Emily, a 10-year-old bichon frise who could no longer stay with her owner because the young children made her nervous. Emily now has the run of the house at Sunrise Assisted Living.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 12, 2005
Words:654
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