By: Sharon Aron Baron
Growing older and moving to a senior center doesn’t mean one has to leave their beloved four-legged friend behind.
At Parkland’s Aston Gardens, pets are not only welcome but are relished, and on Monday, they held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on their new $20,000 dog park, which was attended by Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky.
The idea for the dog park came from resident Audrey Pong who has lived at Aston Gardens for five years with her miniature poodle, Levi.
Sue Butler, executive director of Aston Gardens, said they have a monthly town hall meeting where they have an open dialogue with the residents, and Pong asked for something for the dog-lovers.
“They are so excited about it,” said Butler. “They are just thrilled they are going to be able to let their dogs run around, get some exercise, not keep them on the leash, and I just think it’s a really cute amenity to have here.”
Aston Gardens even held a contest to name the new dog park, with the majority of residents choosing “The Barking Lot.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the residents entered the dog park one by one. They learned the proper procedure of unleashing their dogs in the special holding area, then allowing them into the dog park. Once inside, some dogs loved running around, while others preferred to stay by their owners. But all were intensely watching one another in their new-found social playground.
There was even shade for the residents, adequate seating, and plenty of free poop bags to keep the area clean.
“Dogs provide such wonderful emotional support and companionship to seniors and it is nice to see Aston Gardens at Parkland Commons making their community even more dog-friendly,” said Mayor Hunschofsky, who added that it was a nice addition not only for the residents who have dogs but for those who don’t — who just want to see them running around and playing.
Other Discovery Senior Living communities around the U.S., which Aston Gardens is part of, also have dog parks; however, they are small, fenced areas.
Said Butler, “I sent these pictures to our corporate office last week, and the CEO has commissioned the resident directors to roll the same product out across all of the different properties.”
“And it all started here,” added Mayor Hunschofsky.