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People and pets connect at Stoneridge Creek

Canine residents considered a welcome part of life

When Paula Brown moved into Stoneridge Creek retirement community a year ago, she faced a good deal of downsizing. But no way would this include her Doberman, Jewel, who weighs about 75 pounds.

"It's been more of an adjustment for her," Brown, 79, said with a laugh. "We had a big yard, and she could come and go through her doggie doors."

In order to be welcome at Stoneridge Creek, dogs must pass a health exam as well as a social test, which includes going for a walk with someone besides the owner, Brown said. Jewel passed with flying colors.

"One man did the test, and he wanted to adopt her. He thought she was such a great dog," Brown said. "He has four or five children, and he sent them over and they wanted to take her for a walk."

When she was younger, Brown traveled in her motor home all over the western United States to pursue her interest in genealogy -- with her Doberman named Jolene, who was also a rescue dog.

Now Brown sticks closer to home but remains busy, still with her genealogy as well as swimming and other activities at Stoneridge. She is pleased with the nearby fields where she can let Jewel run, and they both enjoy the dog park, a social place with a group of dog owners known as Puppy Pals.

"I've connected more with the dog people," Brown said. "We sit and visit."

"There are cat people, too," she added, "but they don't take their cats out."

Stoneridge Creek touts the dog amenities on its website: "Explore our walking trails with your dog by your side, or let him or her run free at our on-site dog park." The dog park is divided into spaces for large dogs and small dogs, and has water fountains, fire hydrants and dog toys.

Amanda Kerr, Stoneridge Creek's life enrichment manager, said the Puppy Pals Club was started when the community opened in 2013 to help residents meet one another, and now it's become a cornerstone of life at Stoneridge Creek.

The friendly dog owners also have discovered they face distinct issues, Brown said. They started a list for people to volunteer to walk dogs if their owners can't do it.

"I signed up to do that," Brown said, noting that she would hate to put Jewel in a kennel if she were laid up for a while. "If they're responsible owners, I don't mind at all taking care of their dogs."

They have held a couple of meetings to discuss how to ensure that all the dogs are an asset to the community, and they decided they would talk to those who might need help with dogs that don't know how to behave around others.

"I think they should all be socialized," Brown said. "The dogs can't speak for themselves -- we have to be their champions."

Jacquelyn and Carl Holder have lived at Stoneridge Creek for almost two years with their West Highland Terrier, Huntley.

"Huntley is a great dog," Jacque Holder said. "We rescued him. He doesn't bark except with us. He does what I ask him to do. And he's a certified therapy dog."

She enjoys getting to know the other Puppy Pals.

"A friend of mine put together a list, and everybody takes turns keeping the area clean," she said.

She and Carl, a former pilot with Pan American, lived in Pleasanton's Birdland for decades -- with a sojourn in West Berlin for five years in the late '80s -- but now they are happy to be at Stoneridge Creek.

"People are really congenial here," she said.

Many residents who do not own dogs are still dog lovers, so they consider the canines a welcome part of life at Stoneridge.

"Several people have walked by and said, 'What's your dog's name?'" Brown said. "Last year we had a parade."

People walked their dogs as an emcee introduced both people and pooches, and they received doggie bags with doggie cookies.

"There was a big audience," Brown said. "My dog wanted to go to the grandstand and have everybody pet her."

Stoneridge Creek's pet friendly policy seems to be working for everyone.

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