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87-Year Old Memory Care Resident Judges A Very Special Dog Show

Recently three Anthem Memory Care communities in the Denver, Colorado area got together for a unique and fun event: a dog show! The idea was initially proposed by Ms. Helen Lee James, a resident of Highline Place Memory Care in Littleton, Colorado. Ms. James had a special reason for her suggestion. She had, in her earlier years, been a judge for the American Kennel Club. 

In addition to residents, staff and family members, also participating in the event were preschoolers from local Primrose School of Bear Creek. The local publication, Columbine Courier, was also alerted and dispatched a reporter and photographer to cover the event. The result is a heartwarming story, which you can read here.

Ms. James was the second woman judge ever selected for the American Kennel Club.

Residents of Highline Place, Willowbrook Place and Chelsea Place lined up their chairs under a festive balloon archway to watch thirteen beautiful dogs enter the show ring. Ms. James, totally in command, asked the handlers to put the dogs through their paces. Finally, she examined each dog, with the precision that could only come from a former AKC judge.  At 87 years old, while challenged with dementia, Ms. James demonstrated that she still had what it took to work with the dogs and use her keen eye to pick a winner (and two runners up). Ms. James, it was revealed, was only the second woman ever to be named as a judge for the prestigious American Kennel Club. She had certainly earned respect over the years and her experience was on display at this very special show.

The organizer of the event, Michael Porterfield, Activities Director for Willowbrook Place, commented to the Columbine Courier how happy it made him to observe the reactions of the residents and families taking part in the event. He said, “The benefit I get out of it is seeing everybody happy. If I can see them happy, it makes my day.”

Events, such as this dog show, work so well on so many levels to improve the quality of life for memory care residents. The gathering together of multi-generations to share an experience is invigorating. The contact with animals brings a sense of wellbeing, as many residents had pets in their younger years and enjoy petting and caring for the animals. Finally, giving residents greater purpose and meaning is critical to helping them retain a sense of normalcy in their lives and to keep them better connected to those around them.

As for the dogs themselves, as in any dog show there must be a winner. This one was no exception. A beautiful black toy poodle named Special Agent Ziva D (as in the NCIS character) took home first prize. It may not be a coincidence that Ms. James once bred and raised her own poodles!

For more information about Anthem Memory Care communities, and to learn more about their local events, you can visit our communities web page here.

Photo taken by Sara Hertwig for Columbine Courier.