My name is Ruth Smith but my friends and neighbors also know me as "Rocky's Mom." Rocky is my 1-year-old French bulldog (a "Frenchie"). I love sharing him with our community and seeing all the smiles he generates. Rocky assumes everybody loves him as much as I do. But just in case, I always ask before entering the elevator, "Do you mind if we join you?" Lenbrook welcomed me and my first "Frenchie," Liam, here five years ago.
Bulldogs are Beautiful Inside
My love of dogs began when I was 12 and we got our first English bulldog. "Muggsy." Then there were five more over the years: a second Muggsy, Pearl, Heather, Heloise and Greta.
"Muggsy" (my second English bulldog with that name) was a part of the family when I got married and we had our son John. We liked raising our son with a dog in the house. You learn a lot about your child -- and the dog -- through the way they relate to each other. When John was only about 5 years old, he and I were walking Muggsy and a couple passing us remarked, "That dog is so ugly." John looked up at them and quickly said, "But he's beautiful inside." That was a very special moment for me.
Of course, truth be told, when you wake up and see a Bulldog first thing in the morning you do kind of think to yourself, "Thank God I don't look like that."
Sadly my husband passed away before John turned six. Not too long after that John asked to have his own dog. He wanted a Boston terrier. "Freddy" soon joined our ranks and they were very close. Freddy was still living with us when John went off to college.
Moving to a Smaller Bulldog
After my last Bulldog passed away I chose to get a French bulldog, "Liam." French Bulldogs were bred solely to be companions. For generations, they would sit on the laps of the seamstresses in England. They are the perfect size, smaller than an English bulldog but not so small that you're likely to trip over them. Frenchies are also the perfect size for socializing with people who are in a wheelchair -- their heads are very reachable for petting.
Moving to a Smaller Home: Are Dogs Allowed?
I lived in my house in Philadelphia for 42 years (hence the name "Rocky Balboa" for my dog). After a two-month stint in rehab following an illness, it became clear to my son and me that I needed to move closer to him. I'd always remembered something a friend once said to me, "The kindest thing you can do as you get older is to move to where your kids are. Don't expect your children to move where you are."
I considered moving into a condominium in Atlanta but realized I didn't want to face the task of having to move again to become a part of a senior community with health care on site. So I decided to look at "Life Plan Communities" (CCRCs). My first question for each community was: "Do you allow dogs?" If not, they weren't even in the running.
We narrowed it down to two communities and I chose the one inside the perimeter. That way he and I don't have a long commute when we get together for dinner at least once a week.
I'm a "Dog Person," He's a "People Dog"
One of the best things about having a dog is they agree with everything you say! I come in my front door and immediately start talking to Rocky. He simply listens and follows me from room to room.
I suspect Rocky likes people better than dogs. I'll take him out to play in Lenbrook's fenced-in dog run and he sits on the bench with other dog owners and listens to us talk. I've taken him to doggy daycare on occasion to socialize with other dogs, but I really think he likes it better here at Lenbrook -- with all of our wonderful friends.
Ruth Smith grew up on the east coast and attended the University of Delaware where she earned her degree in nutrition. She started her career as a dietitian with Aramark Food Services, became a stay-at-home mom when her son was born, and then returned to the workforce in the judicial system. Her husband was a prominent Philadelphia judge and her son is an attorney with law offices here in Atlanta and Philadelphia.