By Harry Bosk

The residents of FutureCare of Dundalk are elated when Pets on Wheels (PoW) volunteer Pat Sinclair and her dog Ellie walk through the door. “They know when Ellie is in the house,” says Pat. “She isn’t their love bucket because buckets overflow. She is their love sponge.” It’s an appropriate metaphor because according to Pat, the residents see Ellie as an old friend who has come to visit. They soak up every minute of the time they spend with her.

In some instances, Pat and Ellie are the only visitors they have. And, as Pat will tell you, Ellie easily makes new friends and eagerly greets new residents. Over time, Ellie becomes their regular visitor.

Pat and Ellie visit on Tuesdays and Fridays. And the residents know when they’re coming: “When I miss a day the residents aren’t shy about asking me why,” Pat says. “They look at Ellie and say ‘where were you?’. Then they look at me and – sometimes pointing their finger – say, “It’s your fault because you drive the van.”’

Pat dutifully prepares Ellie for every visit. She grooms the dog with a brush and puts on her dog therapy vest. “Ellie gets excited because she knows where she is going,” Pat says. “She’s the star. It’s all about her, the fun she has and the joy she brings to everyone else.”

Kelly Flipowicz, director of Admissions at FutureCare of Dundalk remarks, “Pat and Ellie have been visiting six and a half years. They have established a strong bond with so many residents that they have come to see Ellie as their dog. When I give tours of our facility; I always tell visitors about Pat and Ellie.”

Kelly adds that some of the FutureCare of Dundalk’s short-term residents are dog owners. “Pat and Ellie help fill the void they may be feeling while they are here,” she says.

Pat Sinclair explains that her regular visits with Ellie brighten her own day. “I feel so much better. You can’t just not want to do this. On the days we can’t come, my week feels incomplete.”