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Rest home’s best friend

Lyndale Villa resident June Dawson, with Alix Cooper and her dog Pepsi. PHOTO/EMILY IRELAND

Emily Ireland

Masterton residents June Dawson and Alix Cooper have more in common than one might think.

Both enthusiastic dog-lovers, the pair have forged a relationship similar to that of a grandmother and granddaughter – although June, 88, prefers to think of her and Alix as “sisters”.

June is a resident at Lyndale Villa, and in her earlier days was an award-winning dog breeder.

Her dogs helped her through all the tough times in life like the death of her husband, and also her daughter’s murder.

“It was a terrible situation for me,” June said.

“I went through all that, and my love for the dogs grew – I had nine dogs at one stage, all King Charles Cavaliers.”

And although she loves living at Lyndale, life without man’s best friend constantly by her side was lonely.

This is where Alix, a volunteer with Accredited Visiting Service, came in.

“The saddest part for people when they go into the rest homes is that they can’t take their pets with them,” Alix said.

“Some rest homes will allow a cat, but you can’t have a dog. It’s just not feasible.

“That’s why Accredited Visiting Service just in the last year came up with this initiative to have accredited visiting services with dogs.

“Because I’m a mad passionate dog-lover, and because June is a mad passionate dog-lover, they paired us up.”

Alix’s dog Pepsi is “rather well known around Masterton”.

She is quite fond of June, and vice versa.

“You know I love you, don’t you sweetheart,” June regularly says to Pepsi.

“And she loves me – mind you, the bikkies might have something to do with it.”

Alix and Pepsi visit June each Monday – sometimes they go out for coffees and lunch.

June’s dog Jerry, who would visit twice a week, died last month.

“It’s been tough on June because she’s lost a daughter, her husband, and now her dog,” Alix said.

“We can’t underestimate just what a visit from a little animal does.”

But Alix said the visitation was beneficial for her as well – “June is like the grandmother I’ve never known”.

“We’ve both lost husbands so we’ve got some things in common – no family, lost husbands, and loving dogs so much.

“Age isn’t a barrier of what you have in common. I think they made a perfect match.”

June said the visits were “marvellous” and that she always had Mondays to look forward to.

“We’ve made up a nice social life together like friends, and I just love this wee one,” she said, embracing Pepsi.

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