Jack Jack and Memphis have become close friends, though they live in separate areas of the home. Several times a day, they run together in Sunrise’s fenced backyard. Pictured here with the two dogs are residents Juanita White, Jeff Ray and Linda Churay. Photos by Sean Gasser.

Two rescue dogs make days brighter at Sunrise of Baton Rouge

When a small, spotted dog showed up at Kim Ashmore’s front door, she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was fate. Ashmore, the activity and volunteer coordinator at Sunrise of Baton Rouge, had been searching for a new dog to fill the void that was left behind after the passing of the senior living facility’s previous furry residents. As Ashmore looked down at the small-statured canine with a deceptively large personality, she just knew.

“Jack Jack belonged to a man who couldn’t take care of him anymore, and he had escaped from his foster home down the street,” she recalls, likening the Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix to Harry Houdini. “He seemed like the perfect fit so I brought him for a trial period at Sunrise. When I came back after the weekend, the staff had bought him several outfits, a bed, new bowls and a leash. He was already part of the family.”

Just weeks later, the Sunrise family would be complete, as Friends of the Animals connected the facility with a gentle giant, a Great Pyrenees mix named Memphis.

“We couldn’t believe how much interest the post about us got on Friends of the Animals’ Facebook page,” notes Ashmore of the more than 600 likes and counting. “A lot of people were shocked that we have pets here, but it’s part of our philosophy.”

In addition to Jack Jack and Memphis, residents can bring their own dogs with them when they move in. Currently, there are two other furry friends on Sunrise’s campus.

Sunrise Senior Living, the larger company of which Sunrise of Baton Rouge is a part, encourages its communities to have pets among their residents, with rescue animals being the preferred “breed.” With many residents coming from homes where pets were a part of their daily lives, having dogs wandering around the campus blurs the lines between past and present while delivering a dose of energy and excitement.

“I wouldn’t have come here if they didn’t have pets,” says resident Linda Churay. “A lot of us have spent most of our lives being caregivers. It’s nice to have even a small way to continue that.”

Resident Jeff Ray has taken a special interest in Jack Jack. Walking the dog around the facility’s Jefferson Highway property multiple times a day, Ray says he feels a connection with the terrier, especially after the passing of his own dog.

“It’s been fantastic for me,” says Ray, as Jack Jack jumps up to lick him in the face. “It’s nice to have something to do, and I think he enjoys it, too.”

When Jack Jack isn’t accompanying Ray on walks, he finds his permanent home in Sunrise’s memory care area. Jumping into laps and hopping on the desks of employees, his energy is infectious.

“He just has such a bright spirit,” Ashmore explains. “We have some residents who can, at times, be very upset. It’s amazing to see their moods change when Jack is in the room.”

Memphis has a similar effect on guests, residents and staff, as he has found his safe spot next to Sunrise’s front desk. Quiet and gentle, he makes quick friends with anyone who offers him a Milk-Bone or gives him a passing rub on their way to afternoon activities or meals.

“There is so much that changes when you move from home,” explains Ashmore. “The dogs are friendly faces that really do make this place a home.”