The minute I saw Tony, I fell in love.
His distinguished, exotic look gave him a prestigious appeal. He had an air about him of friendly elegance.
As he walked the halls of the Essex Nursing Home in Salem, his white hair bounced on the top of his head, revealing streaks of black, adding to his prominence.
He would stop occasionally at a door and peer into the room. So polite and gentle, he never entered unless he was invited.
Yet, he was almost always invited in. Everyone was happy to see Tony.
It is not what Tony has to say that makes the Essex residents so glad to see him -- in fact, he says nothing.
Simply his presence brings joy.
His visit with each friend might last a few minutes or he might stay a while. He may even catch a nap before moving on. No one seems to mind this habit of Tony's, he is charming even when asleep.
Bringing light: Inez LeFever spies Tony coming her way and her eyes light up.
Tony recognizes his friend and shows her how happy he is to see her.
"He kissed me, so he's mine!" she exclaims.
While other Essex residents shoot Inez sharp looks of jealousy, Adelle Phillis, Tony's "human pet," gives Tony a look of reprimand.
"No kissing," her eyes say.
Yes, this suave and debonair visitor is a dog.
Tony is a Chinese Crested who spent the first three years of his life as a show dog and breeder.
Though he no longer competes for blue ribbons, at Essex, he wears a crown. Tony is the prince of these residents' hearts.
Inez pats her lap for Tony to sit. The quiet visitor obliges.
"He likes me and I like him," Inez says, very matter-of-factly.
Tony moves on her lap. "Do you have an itch? Where does it itch?" Inez dotes.
"Want me to scratch it for you?" she says, rubbing his belly. Tony looks lovingly into Inez's eyes. She spies his glance and rubs harder, all the while laughing with delight.
"Is that better?" she talks to him again.
Inez was watching television before Tony arrived. I doubt she can remember the show now.
After a few more minutes, it is time to move on.
The outward effect of Tony's visit with Inez is clearly apparent; Inez is beaming.
Inwardly, Tony has lowered Inez's blood pressure, lowered her triglyceride and cholesterol levels, as well as released positive endorphins in her brain.
No wonder everyone loves him!
A favorite stop: Tony's next visit is one of his favorites.
Jim Hurst was one of Tony's first friends at Essex.
"Tony actually picked him out," Adelle explains, "And was determined to make him his friend whether Jim liked it or not!"
A reserved man, Jim opens up when Tony appears. Petting him gently, Tony curls up beside Jim. It is nap time.
"Sometimes it's hard to get Tony out of this room," Adelle whispers.
On the wall, Jim's bulletin board holds several pictures of Jim and Tony.
"Tony is Jim's only visitor," Adelle explains.
Jim doesn't mind Adelle sharing this information. Tony has decreased any sense of loneliness he has.
After a short nap, it is time to move on.
The hour is running late, the residents are preparing for bed.
Adelle senses it is time to go.
Then, down the hall she hears, "Oh, for heavens sake! It's Tony!"
Velma Dama had been in her room all evening, unaware of the prince's arrival.
Tony trots up to her.
Velma, in her wheelchair, Tony by her side, take a walk down the hall.
The suave and debonair prince parades down the hall with Velma, a queen in her glory.
XFor information about dog therapy opportunities, call A Place for Paws at (330) 482-4596.