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Posted on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 6 a.m.

More than man's best friend - Buddy is 'communal pet' at Sunrise Senior Living

By Ann Arbor Animal Hospital

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The Ann Arbor Animal Hospital has been doing a series, More Than Man's Best Friend, to share with Ann Arbor Animal Hospital clients and readers. The series has featured unique and interesting information about pets who are patients of ours but do something outside of the traditional "at home" role most pets experience.

In this case, "Buddy," a patient at our hospital and a communal pet at Sunrise Senior Living, played an invaluable role for my mother, Doris, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and moved into Sunrise as a resident. His companionship, sense of humor and job as a four-legged doorbell to announce the arrival of strangers visiting the facility led us to believe that Buddy was definitely more than man's best friend.

Watching residents take Buddy for walks, seeing him scratch on resident doors while he made his rounds to say "hi," having him accompany me on the elevator, etc., were all instances where I realized how different, yet wonderful, Buddy's life was as a Sunrise communal pet.

So, it is with fond memories and great pleasure that I introduce to you "Buddy", the companion therapy dog who resides at Sunrise Senior Living facility on Plymouth Road!

Who is Buddy?
Buddy is most likely a wire haired Jack Russell Terrier mix. He is a neutered male, around 9 years old, and weighs about 30 pounds. He is unique because he is almost all white, with only two small, faded tan spots on his back. Buddy has super pink skin, a little black nose and dark brown eyes. When he is excited, he grunts and rolls around like a little piggy. Buddy is loved by the whole Community and everyone likes to give him treats!

How did Buddy end up at the Sunrise Senior Living facility?
Buddy’s original owner donated him to Sunrise in Ann Arbor in 2008 due to his history of severe separation anxiety. His owner wanted him to be in a safe environment where he would be surrounded by loving people, 24 hours a day.

With his separation anxiety, does Buddy tend to stay with a small number of residents?
Buddy has his “favorites,” but for a dog that loves people, it only takes a scratch on the belly to become his best friend. When someone walks in the door, he is quick to alert everyone. As soon as he sniffs them and they say hello, he wags his little stub of a tail in acceptance.

Does Buddy have his own personal care-giver?
Although it is a joint effort by the whole community to keep an eye out for Buddy, he is fed and let out by team members. A coordinator takes him to the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital annually for his vaccines. Occasionally he gets to go on car rides with the coordinator and, sometimes, he even gets out to the Huron River! The residents provide him with daily love and attention, and he has regular beloved residents that he sleeps with every night. Buddy also has residents take him for walks.

Did Buddy receive special training?
Buddy is extremely smart and well behaved. He easily picks up new tricks and fit in well at the community as soon as he arrived. He is very sociable and even able to perform some tricks. In this case, Buddy’s personality is what makes him so successful in this role. He is well mannered and has a wonderful disposition.

What is a day like in the life of Buddy?
After a good night’s sleep, Buddy comes down to the Community Bistro each morning around 7:30 a.m. He is promptly taken outside by a team member. He then spends the day running all over the community, riding up and down the elevator, and back and forth from resident suites and coordinator offices. He also takes a few naps throughout the day.

He gets frequent, short walks around the outside of the community or spends his lunch time down by the pond behind the building. Because he is smuggled treats throughout the day from residents and visitors, he only needs to eat once a day and it is usually around 5 p.m. Then he spends the rest of the evening sitting with residents and being a good little watch dog. Around 7:30 p.m., he heads up to bed with one of the residents.

Does Buddy have interactions with other dogs or cats?
Families and friends are welcome to bring their pets to visit residents, so Buddy has many guests coming and going throughout the week. He loves meeting other dogs but is quick to let them know that the community is HIS house! Some of the residents have kitties, and he is very curious about them, sometimes even trying to sneak in to their suites to visit!

Does Buddy have the freedom to roam the entire facility?
The community is Buddy’s home, so he has a wide range! However, he is not allowed to enter the kitchen and is not allowed in the dining room during meal times.

Any closing thoughts about Buddy?
Pets are an integral part of daily life at Sunrise. Research shows that pets can help reduce stress, anxiety and loneliness. That is why each and every Sunrise community is home to at least one cat and dog. At Sunrise of Ann Arbor, Buddy is part of the family and he provides unconditional love, comfort and affection to us.

David Caddell is the hospital director of the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital, a locally owned and operated Companion Animal Hospital. David can be reached on his phone at 734-662-4474 or his e-mail at


Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

When I visit my husband there and Buddy "greets" me, it's like having a sort of cranky old uncle say "Oh, it's you. Back again are you?" I think it's just for show, to make sure you know who really runs the place.


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

Love this!

music to my ear

Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

I am so happy the sunrise seniors have a buddy, I know a lot of them are probably missing dogs they had in the past. Buddy must fill a void in their lives. my dogs fill voids in my life too. every body needs a buddy or 2


Tue, Jan 15, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.

Go Buddy!