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For these dog owners at East Ridge at Cutler Bay, the community’s dog-friendly policies were among the most important factors behind their decision to choose the Life Plan Community.

“Where I go, he goes,” said Gudrun Parmentier about her 14-year-old Chihuahua named Oliver. “I wouldn’t have come to East Ridge otherwise.” She inherited Oliver from her granddaughter, who couldn’t take him to college, and he’s been her faithful companion for seven years.

Since Oliver is older, she doesn’t take advantage of the community’s dog park. Instead, they enjoy the freedom to walk anywhere within the community.

She considers Oliver better than an alarm clock. He seems to know exactly when to wake her in the morning at 6:30. By 7 a.m., they’re out the door and walking for 30-45 minutes each day. Their evening walks aren’t as long but having a dog keeps her active and healthy.

She has lived at East Ridge for less than a year and Oliver helps her meet people.

“A dog is an icebreaker,” she said. “It’s easier to strike up a conversation when you have a dog.”

Gudrun describes Oliver as a very charming and precise dog who is motivated by food. During the coronavirus pandemic, having a dog made all the difference in the world by adding so much pleasure to her life.

Another resident, Bunny Swanson lives with Zoey, her 14-year-old bichon frise. She describes her dog as exuberant for her age with a somewhat demanding personality.

“She’s inquisitive and bright and simply fun to live with,” Bunny said. “During these months of the pandemic, I would have gone crazy without her.”

Zoey and her sister, Abby, came to Bunny as puppies. The two dogs’ personalities were so different, it was appropriate to name one with an A and the other with a Z.

East Ridge’s pet policy guaranteed Bunny could bring her dogs and this sealed the deal.

“If I couldn’t bring the dogs, we wouldn’t have moved to East Ridge,” she said. “Zoey is a devoted companion and follows me if I leave a room.”

Unfortunately, Abby recently passed away but Zoey and Bunny have a great relationship.

She’s very intuitive, and like Gudrun’s dog, Oliver, also wakes Bunny up in the mornings.

“If she’s awake, she seems to feel I need to wake up too,” said Bunny with a laugh.

Linda Sankpill lives at East Ridge with her bichon, Kiki, who is 13 years old. A breeder named the dog but she was rejected as a breeder dog because she was too small. When Linda acquired her, she was eight months old and wasn’t housebroken, trained or spayed. The initial months were a lot of trouble, Linda acknowledges, but Kiki wanted to please and was so sweet.

“East Ridge is a wonderful place to own a dog. It’s a great place for walking with a dog and there are plenty of trees and sidewalks. The dog park is available too,” she said.

The benefits for seniors who own pets have been well documented. Not only are dogs great for companionship and protection, but they contribute to a healthier outlook on life. Studies show that seniors with dogs go to the doctor less and have lower levels of blood pressure and cholesterol compared to non-pet owners.

Linda says Kiki gets her outside and walking and has helped her physically and mentally.  When her husband passed away, her dog filled a void and was a welcome distraction.

Although Linda is well known at East Ridge as the community’s Town Council Chair, her dog seems to give her an additional identity. Inevitably, neighbors will say, “Oh, you’re the one with the little white dog!”

Linda Horenstein felt it was an added benefit that East Ridge was pet-friendly. Her daughter was raising her miniature poodle, Coco, because she couldn’t have a dog where she was previously living. She would go to her daughter’s house and walk Coco each day. Moving to East Ridge meant having the dog with her.

“As soon as I moved to East Ridge, my daughter asked if I was ready to take her, and of course I was,” Linda recalled. “The first night, I put her doggy bed next to mine. As soon as I was in bed, she hopped on the bed and snuggled next to me. It was amusing because it never happened with any other dogs we had. When I told my daughter, she said it was funny because Coco had never slept with her.”

Linda finds the East Ridge lifestyle makes it easy to have a dog. Though she has a fenced-in yard, she takes Coco on daily walks.

“Coco helps me meet people. So many people know Coco and don’t know my name,” she added.

About East Ridge at Cutler Bay

East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community. The nonprofit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 SW 87th Avenue.  The community offers a continuum of care including independent and assisted living residences in a neighborhood setting, respite and skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation services available within Three Palms Health Center.  For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 305-290-2346 or visit