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A Dog Party For Justice

Around Sunrise Assisted Living in Springfield, Justice lays down the law. Justice is a border collie who is free to go anywhere in the building, knows all the residents, and acts as protector when needed. The dog just celebrated his sixth birthday on Friday, Nov. 28.

"He's very protective, trust me on that," said maintenance engineer Jim Maguire. "For seniors, it's always good to have a pet."

Pets are a part of life at Sunrise, according to executive director Donna Baker. The national chain of retirement housing includes pets as part of the living experience at its centers.

"All Sunrises have a dog and a cat," Baker said. "We have several birds as well."

Justice and the cat were obtained from the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, otherwise known as "the pound." The two pets are free to roam in the building except for the dining room and individual rooms. Residents are allowed to have their own pets, as well.

It's one of the things that sets Sunrise properties apart from other retirement communities. Pat Mclaughlin was the concierge at Sunrise back when Justice first came to the property. Mclaughlin has since retired but returned for Justice's birthday party.

"The residents went out and picked him out," Mclaughlin said. "He is just the greatest thing that ever happened to Sunrise. He's a great morale booster."

At 10:30 every morning, Baker has a staff meeting. That includes Justice, who is always on time even though others may be running late. A border collie is a good fit at Sunrise.

"He's a herder, and he's going to take care of everybody," Baker said. "You could go out and buy a pedigreed dog, but what's the use when you have all these dogs and cats in the shelter?"

When emergencies arise at Sunrise and 911 is called, Justice gets upset and has to be sent to his room, which is an office off the main room.

"He's seeing his family taken away," said Maguire.

On Friday, Sunrise resident Jean Patti brought a package of "Dogwiches," for the birthday celebration. Justice had other presents and even a dog-food cake.

"He's a lovely dog," Patti said. "It makes it feel like home. Everybody loves him."