Scooter is a hit — stealing hearts and bringing smiles — to residents and staff at Foothills Place Senior Living.
The 6-month-old, tan and white terrier mix is a rescue dog that is now the facility’s mascot, said Catherine Linta-Moschini, a spokeswoman for the assisted living community in the Santa Catalina Foothills at 3701 N. Swan Road.
Scooter was abused, and her injuries resulted in her inability to use her back legs. She suffered hip and nerve damage, and wears a diaper.
Linta-Moschini, an animal advocate, met Scooter last month and took her in from Lil Bit of Love, a Tucson animal rescue organization that is operated by volunteers. Scooter fits in nicely with Linta-Moschini’s two other rescued dogs and a parrot.
She works with Scooter, exercising her hind legs, and helping her do stretches to strengthen her spine. Scooter was fitted for a wheelchair and is now walking in the halls of the senior facility greeting residents and guests.
“They see this little girl and they light up,” said Linta-Moschini.
Scooter made her way into the dining room while residents were eating lunch and she was greeted by many who reached out to pet their mascot.
“Oh my God,” said Theresa LaViola, 88. “Scooter is a riot,” said LaViola who sees the dog every day in the hallways and at bingo. “I love the way she walks around and then stops and goes from person to person.
“Scooter puts a smile on my face,” said Gerry Melvin, 81. “She doesn’t let her handicap take away her joy in life. She is such a happy dog.”
Not only does Scooter give residents an emotional lift, but she also gives them energy to do their exercises. She doesn’t stop there, Linta-Moschini takes Scooter to four rehabilitation centers, and to Peppi’s House, which is Tucson Medical Center’s inpatient hospice, to visit others.
One woman in Foothills Place Senior Living’s dementia and Alzheimer’s unit told staff: “I need Scooter.”
“She melts hearts,” explained Linta-Moschini. “Scooter has made a big change in people. I knew she would, but I didn’t realize how enormous it would be,” she said.
Arianne Ramirez, executive director of Foothills Place Senior Living, said for more than a decade senior facilities across the nation have allowed residents to bring their pets to live with them. However, she said, not many facilities have pet mascots, like Scooter.
“Scooter has good days and bad days, just like our residents, said Ramirez. “But she shows them that even though it may be hard for them to get up and about, it is worthwhile.”
Once they see Scooter in her wheelchair moving around, residents then realize that they can do it too, Ramirez said.
She said pets are good for seniors because pets help reduce depression, make good companions and help stave off loneliness.