The old adage `man’s best friend’ doesn’t change with age.
Andrew Rambow and his four-year-old border-collie Rosy came to the LDK Greenway Views retirement village in Tuggeranong 16 months ago as a firmly entwined pair.
“I came in here and it was like walking into home,” he says.
“Rosy is part of the family. And everyone here loves her. The way they smile is just unbelievable.”
Pets aren’t usually accepted in retirement villages, but Andrew and Rosy – along with countless other companions and their owners – are supported by Pets and Positive Aging (PAPA).
PAPA works with Northside Community Service and ACT Pet Crisis Support to help aging pet owners. This extends to walking and grooming services, and veterinary appointments.
When he was two years old, polio robbed Andrew of the use of his legs. He’s now resigned to a wheelchair, but it hasn’t stopped him from living his best life.
His parents migrated from Germany after World War II, arriving first in Melbourne. Andrew met his wife, Denise, in Canberra where they honeymooned in 1972. He worked in the public service in the Department of Foreign Affairs, but describes himself as a diamond setter by trade, founding ‘Rambo Diamond Setters’ in Canberra.
“I’ve also always liked guns and rifles,” he says.
After some fun firing at a nearby range, Andrew discovered he had a knack for shooting. He went on to compete in the air rifle at two Paralympics, in Barcelona and Seoul.
Quickly becoming a jack of all trades, he also built his own house in Forde. He retired two years ago and prepared to settle into a quieter life of circling the world on cruise ships.
But then came the accident.
“I was doing about 5 km/h on my motor scooter when the back spring broke,” he says.
“It chucked me over. And because it was one-wheel driven, it just kept rubbing me around in circles on the ground. I ended up with two breaks in the right leg, one in the left leg. Two-and-a-half years later, I’m still getting over it.”
He soon realised living at home wasn’t an option. But whatever happened next, his furry and faithful friend had to stay by his side.
“I was not going to move if Rosy wasn’t going to come with me. It was that simple.”
So Andrew reached out to PAPA to come up with a care plan for Rosy. The team suggested LDK Greenway Views as one of Canberra’s pet-friendly retirement facilities.
Village manager Michelle Bennet says LDK believes the trip hazard of pets around the place is far outweighed by residents keeping their companions.
“We’ve had all sorts of pets here – cats, dogs, budgerigars and gold fish,” she says.
“The transition into any aged-care facility is hard enough. Having to downsize, change your lifestyle, admit that you need support and you’re no longer independent does affect someone’s peace of mind.
“Being able to bring their favourite companion makes the conversation much easier.”
Working with PAPA, LDK also has plans in place to look after pets even if the owner is called away to hospital.
“The resident knows we’re going to be here for their pet, and that it will still be fed and walked,” Michelle says.
There’s also a dog park on-site so owners can let them off the lead.
Michelle says the pets also benefit fellow residents, staff and visitors.
“It adds to the quality of life for all the other residents because they get to see and interact with the pet as well. Even if you’re not a pet owner in this village, you get a the chance for pats and cuddles.
“It’s about emotional health because we know that’s just as important.”