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Retirement facility experiences Eden

October 19, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Retired himself, Duke fits in well as the newest resident at The Quarters at the Shook Home, a personal care facility in downtown Chambersburg, and he doesn't need anything more than his regular meals, exercise, a little affection and occasional grooming.

Duke, a 3-year-old lean, black and tan retired racing greyhound, came to the personal care home a month ago through the Adopt a Greyhound program in Philadelphia.

Six colorful lovebirds, which look right at home in a large glass aviary in the lounge, also moved in last month.

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Among the personal care facility's 42 residents is Marguerite Herman, considered one of Duke's greatest admirers, who smiles as she looks at the greyhound because he reminds her of the cherished dogs she had all through her life in Chambersburg.

"He's just such a tame dog. He's a good dog. I like having him here, but I don't get to see enough of him because there's too many people here and he doesn't know where to go," Herman said, reaching out to caress Duke's head from her wheelchair.

Duke has made himself quite at home at the facility and freely travels through the carpeted halls. His height makes it easy for residents to pet him without bending over, Selman said.

Occasionally, Duke will poke his head into residents' rooms or wherever he thinks he might get some attention or maybe a treat.

The only place he's barred from is the dining room.

The six lovebirds don't have quite the freedom as their canine counterpart, but residents spend just as much time with them. Some sit in the lounge regularly to admire them, and others stop and look into the aviary from the hallway.

"I like to watch them. They sing and chirp. I come in here often to watch them," said Ann Karli, who's lived at The Quarters at the Shook Home for five years.

Duke and the six lovebirds have been incorporated into the lives of the residents, along with plants and regular visits by children, as part of a pilot program known as the Eden Alternative, referring to the Garden of Eden.

Developed by Dr. William H. Thomas, of New York, the concept is to transform the sterile, institutional-like environment that typifies modern-day nursing homes into more of a homey atmosphere and to give the residents the opportunity to care for other living things.

"This is more like what they would have in their own homes," said Barb Selman, director of social services.

Residents take turns caring for Duke and the birds.

After attending a seminar about the new concept, Selman said the staff and residents supported the idea and seemed willing to try it.

Since the program began, the staff has seen noticeable changes in residents' moods.

"It takes their minds off of their health problems. They're not as hyper or as depressed. Everything is sort of mellowing out," said Mildred Mixell, personal care attendant.

Eventually the staff plans to take on other pets and is considering allowing residents to keep birds in their rooms, Selman said.

Plans are also under way to put a similar program in place at The Shook nursing home, which is connected to the personal care facility. Duke is already a regular visitor there, Selman said.

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