New Castle News

March 10, 2014

Puppy Love: Poodle is Haven resident’s best friend

Lugene Hudson
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — There’s a resident at The Haven Convalescent Home who puts a smile on everyone’s face.

But that resident walks on four legs, plays with stuffed toys and loves treats.

Nikki is the pet poodle of Joan Passalinqua and spends almost every waking — and sleeping moment — by her side.

Joan moved into The Haven a little more than a year ago for what she thought what was a temporary stay. A friend cared for Nikki, now 5. But when Joan had to return to The Haven, she was reluctant and upset because she didn’t want to leave her canine best friend behind.

She didn’t have to.

Special permission must be granted to allow a pet to become a full-time resident, and owner Mark Tanner made sure that all criteria was observed in allowing Nikki to move in, too, such as up-to-date shots and the OK of her roommate.

“He went over and above,” said Joan. “Mark and the staff were wonderful. They knew what he means to me.”

And Mark told me, “Everything fell into place.”

So that makes Nikki the first permanent canine resident of the facility. Visitors occasionally bring in pets but permission must be granted for that, too, explained Mundy Priscilla, social services director.

I first met Joan in 2007 when she was living in Neshannock Township with her dog, Susie. A year later, Susie passed away at age 15 and immediately Joan sought another dog. A friend knew of a dog that had been abused.

It was love at first sight when Joan laid eyes on Nikki. He was 5 months old at the time.

“I took him in my arms and said, ‘let’s go.’ He instantly obeyed me.”

I saw what she meant. During our entire visit, Nikki was one of the most well-behaved dogs I have ever seen. Mundy concurred with that assessment. While there is constant activity in the hallways, Nikki seems oblivious. The staff and other residents have taken to the dog for obvious reasons. He is just a sweetheart.

“I see you, Nikki,” Joan said as the dog moved under the bed.

At the mention of his name, he emerged and Mundy placed the dog on Joan’s lap.

Joan’s room looks out onto a wooded area and she, her roommate and Nikki can observe the birds at the feeder and squirrels.

While that bed on the floor is fine for naps, Nikki has slept with Joan in her bed since the first night he established residency there.

Except for accompanying her to the dining room, he goes where Joan goes and that includes bingo, and getting her nails and hair down.

“We go out in the hall and you should see those little legs go,” Joan observed.

A family member comes three times a week to keep her company and stocks the bottom drawer of her dresser with dog food and treats. An aide takes Nikki outside but he never ventures off too far.

Joan reminisced about the dogs she has had including several cocker spaniels. She told her late husband, Bernard “Ben” Passalinqua, that she wanted a dog and that is when they got Susie.

“We put her in my husband’s hand and she just fit. She was two pounds.

“I have a love for animals.”

It shows.

I got ready to leave. Nikki laid his head on Joan’s shoulder.

He is a canine celebrity at The Haven. But foremost, he is Joan’s little darling.