Members of Shamrock Dog Park celebrated the park's reopening on Saturday by parading around long-term care facilities to raise the spirits of residents who have been cut off to outside visitors since mid-March.
Owners walked about 20 dogs around two Lafayette assisted living centers, Saint Anthony Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Creasy Springs Health Campus. Elderly residents peered out windows to wave to passing dogs and owners, smiling at the different costumes dogs were wearing.
Two golden doodles, one named Juniper that sported a pink tutu and another named Ike that wore a blue-and-white-striped necktie, jumped to rest their paws on a windowsill and came face-to-face with residents on the other side of the glass. "We are in this together" was spelled out with signs posted on the window.
"It is heartwarming. It's tough to see people stuck inside of course," said Sarah Huber, the owner of the two dogs and a Shamrock Dog Park board member. "And you can't go inside and say hello personally, but it's something. It's nice to see their faces."
Tracy Walder, the president of Shamrock's board of directors, said she had the idea for a parade after a phone call with her aunt, who is stuck in a nursing home in Illinois. She wanted to brighten the moods of residents who are physically isolated from families and friends.
Recommendations from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention required long-term care facilities to restrict outside visitors in March. Saint Anthony began restrictions on March 12, and Creasy Springs did so on March 11.
Shamrock Dog Park opened Saturday morning after being closed since March 25, and Walder said 45 people came with dogs. The community has nearly 350 members and more than 500 dogs registered, yet a typical outing on a sunny Saturday morning attracts only 10 members, she said.
The space is more than five acres large, with ample room for visitors to maintain distance from one another, Walder said. Guidelines on Shamrock's website remind visitors to wear masks, bring their own hand sanitizer and avoid bringing dog toys to prevent the spread of illness.
The community water buckets usually available to dogs are closed to keep dogs separated, Walder said.
"It's kinda hard to make dogs not drink out of other water bowls," she said. "But we're trying to enforce that."