Rocky River/Avon Lake
By Sue Botos
Roll over Kardashians. Clifford the golden retriever is the current celebrity buzz.
Ever since the story of the senior dog, who was found abandoned in Avon Lake, was told by a number of local media outlets, and even CNN, money for his numerous medical bills and everything from toys to “doggie fashions” has been flowing into his new home at The Harbor Court in Rocky River.
“You wouldn’t believe how generous people have been,” Kathi Greco, director of community relations for The Harbor Court, said at a reception last week for Clifford, who happily posed for paparazzi and cruised residents’ tables, hoping for a treat.
Clifford was found by Love-A-Stray, a nonprofit animal rescue group in Avon Lake, and taken to the Avon Lake Animal Hospital, where he was treated by veterinarian Jason Lamb and his staff for malnutrition and numerous infections.
Greco said she let Love-A-Stray know she was looking for a dog for The Harbor Court to provide therapy and companionship for the residents; but Heidi, a German shepherd mix suggested by the organization, did not quite fit the job description.
“I took her home because she was a little too intimidating-looking for the residents,” said Rick Lilly, who along with his wife Tina works at The Harbor Court. The 9-year-old dog turned out to be quite gentle, and Lilly brought her to the party for Clifford.
Greco said that a total of $10,000 was raised for Clifford, which was far more than his care required. The remainder went toward the care of other Love-A-Stray dogs. “The day after he was here (during a February visit), I spent all day on the phone,” recalled Greco, adding that Clifford’s tale was picked up by CNN from a local TV station. She said donations have come from as far away as Canada and a company in Oregon, which sent a complete ensemble of outerwear.
Rocky River Boy Scout Jason Gibson was on hand with his grandparents Jan and Ron Estes to welcome Clifford to his new home and bring him a gift. He said he’d had the “Clifford the Big Red Dog” stuffed toy since he was little, and wanted to share. He also donated $10 of his own money to the dog’s care.
Greco said Clifford has adapted well to his new home. “The people have loved it. He is so in tune with the residents. He goes to those who like him, and stays away from those who aren’t ‘dog people,'”she said.
As far as those trips outside go, Greco said she and her daughter Caroline are the designated walkers during the day. At night, Clifford stays in “Annie’s Place,” the facility’s memory impairment unit, where aides attend to his needs and distribute his medications along with those of the residents.
“He just fits in perfectly with everyone,” said Greco.