Senior Living

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This pup is on duty for love and support

Mindy Schauer, The Orange County Register on

Published in Senior Living Features

Francisco attends most staff meetings at Woodbridge Terrace of Irvine, California, and regularly interacts with the residents, but never says a word.

Don’t let that fool you.

Mimi Poliner, a 94-year-old resident of the 115-person assisted living and memory-care home, said he always has an opinion. He just doesn’t state it.

“He sets an example that everyone here should follow,” she said dryly.

It’s easy to see why Francisco is one of the most popular personalities among Woodbridge Terrace’s staff and residents.

The 10-pound Maltipoo lives up to his role as community mascot. He is soft on the inside with his kind disposition, and soft on the outside with his perfectly groomed white fur.

Francisco comes from humble beginnings, according to owner Jaye Silva, who works at Woodbridge Terrace as a human resources director.

Silva first met Francisco when she worked at an independent living facility in La Mirada. Then a pet of one of the residents, Silva said the diminutive dog would lock eyes with her and run to her side.

Perhaps it was meant to be.

Eventually the women who owned him could no longer care for him. She had medical and memory issues and was hospitalized.

Silva took the dog home thinking it was temporary.

A week later, Silva found out the woman would not be returning from the hospital and Francis – “I added a ‘co’ to his name to make him a little more manly” – became hers.

 

When Silva was hired at Woodbridge Terrace eight months ago, she asked if she could bring Francisco to visit her grandfather, who also lives there.

Everyone noticed how friendly and comfortable with people Francisco was.

“His temperament allows seniors to not feel afraid and to want to pet him,” Silva said.

And almost everyone noticed when he was left at home and not sleeping under her desk or prancing happily alongside as Silva roamed the facility.

So management invited Francisco to become the resident mascot. His sweet mug adorns community newsletters and residents’ cellphones.

The beauty of Francisco is that he’s like a grandson, Poliner said. “He’s like having the love without the responsibility.”

She leaned over to the pooch, adding, “You’re a very nice person.”

During a staff meeting last Wednesday, Francisco took a seat with about two dozen other employees. When nurse Jennifer Wilkerson arrived, she kicked him off his perch.

“He was just saving the seat for me,” she explained as she snuggled Francisco on her lap.

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