Before Terry and Lorraine Welker moved to Avery Point, the Erickson Senior Living community in Short Pump, Va., the couple fostered a number of dogs.
Their most recent fosters - Gabby and Ellie, both Cavalier King Charles spaniels - moved to Avery Point along with the couple.
"They're wonderful dogs!" says Terry.
It's because of these pups that Terry founded the Avery Point Dog Owners' Group shortly after the couple moved in. The club, which currently boasts about 20 members (not counting canine companions), regularly meets and frequents the community's dog park.
"The dog park is a big draw here," he adds. "It's great. Plus, Avery Point has a lot of great sidewalks and nice grass for owners to walk their dogs."
Given his foster experiences, Terry knew that it would take some time for Gabby and Ellie to get comfortable in their new environment.
"It takes them a while to get adjusted, because it's new," he explains. "I realized that other residents with dogs are probably going through the same thing."
He created the group so pet parents could meet new people as they - and their pups - made Avery Point home.
"I wanted to have people meet, chat, and learn about each other's dogs," Terry says. "At a recent meeting, I created a board with photos of members' dogs and their names. If people see these dogs outside, they will recognize them and maybe go greet them. And, of course, talk with the owners!"
Several puppy parents, especially those who moved from out of state, have noted that access to this group has been a great benefit.
"They needed to find new vets, groomers, and so on. I've already recommended my veterinarian to a number of people," Terry says. "I'm happy to help!"
In the future, he says he would like to invite guest speakers, like dog trainers and behavioralists, to group meetings to further educate members and answer questions.
Lately, group members have been discussing paw pad safety.
"If cold weather brings frost on the grass or if the summer heat makes sidewalks too hot, owners need to check the pads on their dogs' feet," Terry explains.
He adds, "Sharing this kind of information helps residents keep their pets in top-notch health!"
Dog park perks
Seeing the positive impact that outdoor amenities have on residents' well-being, Erickson Senior Living knew that adding a dog park to Avery Point's campus would only enhance the community's active, worry-free lifestyle.
The fabulous fenced-in dog park features plenty of space for dogs to explore and play and benches for owners to sit and chat.
"It's a great place for dogs to run because you can unleash them," says Terry. "They can play with their owners or other dogs. Gabby really likes to chase tennis balls there - the park is big enough for owners to throw balls pretty far. If it weren't for the park, she would be bored. She's full of energy and loves to play!"
The park is perfect for pups who prefer to soak up the sunshine, too.
"Ellie will just walk around, she doesn't like to play," he says, with a laugh. "It's good for both of our dogs."
'Brings us together'
When Vicki Frichtel was researching her senior living options, finding a community with a spacious dog park was at the top of her list.
"That was definitely something I needed," says Vicki, mom to Kara, her 10-year-old rescue terrier mix. "No continuing care retirement communities I explored had them, except for Avery Point!"
Since moving into their apartment home, Vicki and Kara enjoy mingling with new friends at the dog park - furry and not-so-furry ones.
"Kara comes alive at the dog park," she notes. "If other dogs are running, she'll run with them.
The park is a good size, and it's shaded, which is nice. It's got thick grass, too."
Vicki adds that through both the Dog Owners' Group and the dog park, residents and their pups foster meaningful connections.
"It's bonding the dogs and it's bonding the people, because we love our dogs," she says. "We've all got something in common, so it brings us together!"
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