Wedding Season at Ethan Allen Residence
On September 29, Ethan Allen Residence staff hosted a beautiful ceremony joining together two very good dogs. Director of Nursing Maleka Clarke introduced her labradoodle, Boy, and her poodle, Flossie, to the residence last winter. Their presence in the building has been remarkable as they frequent rooms and common areas, brightening residents’ days along the way. Although Maleka had planned on breeding the two pooches, she wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon. Nonetheless, our residential community was blessed with seven adorable puppies in early September.
Maleka approached Cameron Segal, Living Well Group Development and Program Manager, about the possibility of marrying the two dogs at the residence. They wanted to make sure that the event was not only fun, but benefited the residents, staff, and local community. Cameron then took on the role of getting the community involved, adding a philanthropic aspect to the event, and planning the ceremony. Living Well Group frequently invites teams from Therapy Dogs of Vermont to spend time with our residents at each of our three locations. The fundraising team at Ethan Allen Residence was able to raise money for TDV to support the local non-profit so they can continue to bring joy to thousands across the state.
Cameron quickly reached out to Advertising Coordinator Phil Trussell at Pet Food Warehouse about sponsoring the event. Trussell leaped at the opportunity and went above and beyond by supplying a wedding cake, cupcakes for the bride and groom, and gift bags full of tennis balls, toys, and treats for each furry guest. Chappell’s Florist provided the flowers that adorned the residence and Director of Resident Programs Tasha Stouffer baked over 90 cupcakes for the wedding. A number of Ethan Allen’s volunteers and student interns even made the decorations and came in two hours early to prep for the ceremony. Segal invited local neurologic music therapist Marcie Hernandez to play her guitar during the reception while residents and guests snacked, visited with dogs and puppies, and snapped photos in the photo booth.
When asked about planning the wedding, Cameron said, “I knew I wasn’t going to be able to officiate this kind of event myself, but I knew exactly who to turn to.” The person he had in mind was Ethan Allen Residence Music Therapist, Susan Herrick. Herrick, with decades of experience as a certified music therapist, seemed destined to officiate a dog wedding at an elder-care facility. She brings an unparalleled energy when she’s playing music with the residents, whether it’s in a group setting, in one-on-one sessions, or during meals. Susan and Cameron reworked a traditional wedding plan by incorporating the residents and dog themes, including songs like “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” and “You’re A Good Dog Now”. Residents came to the makeshift altar and recited poems in front of a packed room, while Susan accompanied them on her keyboard. Guest in the audience snuggled up to puppies as they were wheeled around the room in a decorated wagon.
Even though the wedding was unorthodox, it was consistent with Living Well Group’s mission to redefine aging in America. The residents in attendance loved the event and continue to talk about it. “It was the most fun I’ve had here, we just love those dogs!” said Ellen Eberhart, one of our residents. Countless staff came in on their days off to attend the event and remarked that they’d never seen the street so full.
The wedding was initially covered by Sasha Goldstein at Seven Days, but was quickly picked up and covered internationally by a number of news outlets including MSN, MetroUK, and Lifestyle.