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Paul Debar has gained six kilos since he moved into residential aged care in November with Bonny, his German shepherd-kelpie cross.
‘I get three meals a day, I can make a coffee whenever I want and it’s good accommodation – even though it’s a single bed,’ he says.
Having suffered four strokes, Mr Debar also appreciates the clinical care at Lifeview Willow Wood, in Victoria’s Cranbourne West.
‘There are so many things that come with being safe,’ he observes.
Bonny is at the very top of that list.
‘When we are together – and we are together all the time now – everything seems much better.
‘I don’t seem to get depressed anymore. And I used to get depressed a helluva a lot.’
The first time Mr Debar moved into residential aged care, he was forced to leave Bonny with a friend.
He lasted three months
‘I missed her too much.’
For a time, Mr Debar ended up living on the street.
‘At least I was always with my dog. And it was more important to me to have my dog.
‘Then I found a caravan and I ended up living in that.’
Lifeview’s pet-friendly policy means Mr Debar no longer has to choose between supported accommodation and his best mate.
‘The difference it makes to our residents is amazing,’ CEO Samantha Jewell says.
‘We are animal lovers ourselves. We know how hard it is to be separated from your pet.
‘If you are moving into residential aged care and you are giving up everything, it’s non-negotiable.’
Willow Wood is currently home to three dogs, including Bonny and Daphne Wilson’s cavoodle, Annie, (pictured) and two cats.
Three other Lifeview homes have cats, dogs and birds.
Before an older person moves into one of Lifeview’s aged care homes with their pet, they must satisfy a set of basic requirements.
Pets aren’t allows in the dining room and they must be on a lead when walking through communal areas.
Checklists are provided to ensure older people remember to walk their dogs each day and don’t under or over-feed their animals.
‘We do have a few rules and regulations – this is communal living,’ Ms Jewell says.
‘But people also know we are a pet-friendly accommodation before they move in.
‘We tell them: “if pets aren’t your thing then maybe this isn’t the right service for you”.’
The residents are Willow Wood don’t have any complaints.
‘There is a common area two doors down from my room,’ Mr Debar says. ‘When Bonny and I walk through, people come from everywhere to pat her. She is getting very spoilt.’