“Guido means everything to her. He’s her entire world,” Joyce said, then added with a laugh, “besides me!” Joyce was talking about her 90-year-old mom, Marilyn, and Marilyn’s 10-year-old Shih Tzu, Guido.
Knowing how much her mom’s dog means to her, Joyce had a moment of panic when Marilyn recently needed to move into a new facility, one that doesn’t offer pet care. Her mom needed Guido, and Guido needed more care than her mom could provide on her own.
Joyce immediately devised a plan with potty pads and a silicon mat in Marilyn’s bathroom to take care of Guido’s daily needs. She also outfitted her mom with Lysol, a Swiffer wet jet, a mop, and other supplies. “We got it down to a science,” Joyce said. “My mom is very clean and Guido caught on right away.”
But Guido still needed to be walked. Though he’s currently ten years old, Joyce said he’s still pretty spry. Thankfully, a staff member at the new facility, Heritage Woods of South Elgin, knew about Anderson Humane’s Constant Companions program, which offers in-home volunteer help for people struggling to care for their pets.
Soon, Nancy, a Constant Companions volunteer, was visiting every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to take Guido, the light of Marilyn’s life, for a nice walk. Joyce, who lives 30 minutes away, visits two other days a week to walk Guido. “Nancy and the Constant Companions program are godsends,” Joyce said. “Nancy often brings him treats or little gifts like a bowtie. She’s such a nice gal.”
“Guido is a small dog with a huge personality,” Nancy said, adding that he knows she’s there to walk him as soon as he hears her knock. “I can hear his little bark through the door. He gets so excited when I open the door and demands pets immediately. Guido loves his walks. He can barely wait for me to attach the leash and leave the room.”
Though Guido loves to be out, he can’t wait to get back to Marilyn. “Whenever she leaves the room, he lifts his head and makes a little mournful cry,” Joyce said, adding that her mom also doesn’t like to be separated from Guido. She was one of eight kids and was happily married to Joyce’s dad for 64 years, so she’s used to having people around her all the time, Joyce explained.
Marilyn has only been Guido’s person for two years, but they connected immediately. Marilyn, a widow, had just lost her last dog and Guido needed a new home after his previous people divorced. “He’s such a sweet guy,” Joyce said of the dog she found for her mom. “He’s not a lap dog, but will sit next to her and put his paw on her knee. He’s very attentive.” Marilyn, in turn, showers Guido with treats and affection.
Nancy, who values giving back, is grateful to help this duo. “Helping Marilyn with walking Guido really means a lot to me,” she said. “It brings me so much joy to see Guido so excited about the walks and to see Marilyn’s appreciation.”
Marilyn isn’t the only one at Heritage Woods of South Elgin who loves Guido. He’s a big hit throughout the facility. “The residents and staff love him,” Joyce said. “He makes a lot of people happy.” When Joyce visits twice a week to walk Guido, she said, “I can’t get through the lobby with him without someone stopping to pet him.” Nancy agrees. “He is a celebrity in the senior living home. Everyone knows his name and wants to pet him,” she said.
In fact, Guido is more sociable than Marilyn, who Joyce described as shy and more of a homebody. Guido fills her home with constant companionship and love. “They are two peas in a pod,” Joyce said. “We are so grateful for Nancy and this program that helps keep them together.”