“He climbed the chain-linked kennel,” said Heather Belknap, the shelter director, explaining that Scout — who weighs about 65 pounds — was indoors, and scaled a fence to get outside. “There’s a six-foot solid vinyl fence around the dog kennels. He jumped over that fence.”
Staff at the shelter could tell that Scout — a stray mutt they rescued and named — was abused, as his jaw had pellets in it, possibly from a BB gun wound, and he displayed other traits of a mistreated animal. He was easily excitable and had a fear of strangers.
“Somebody obviously abused him,” said Belknap. “When he ended up in the shelter, he ended up in the right place.”
Scout’s first nursing home break-in was back in 2017. He leapt over two fences and crossed a highway, then sauntered into the nursing home lobby through an automatic revolving door and parked himself on a brown-colored couch.
He made himself comfortable, sleeping on the sofa until a stunned nurse spotted him and called the county sheriff in a panic.
The dog, who was brought back to the shelter, repeated the same sequence of events on three separate nights in the span of only a few days — slipping out of the shelter and hopping onto the brown couch in the nursing home lobby.
“He was pretty relentless in his pursuit to be here,” said Stephanie Elsey, a clinical care coordinator at Meadow Brook Medical Care Facility. “He found his home.”
Following the third uninvited visit, a staff member took Scout home with her, but he wasn’t a good fit with her other dogs. So, not wanting to send him back to the shelter, the nursing home staff talked, and they collectively decided to adopt him.
“He’s ours. He chose us in the beginning,” said Rhonda Tomzack, an administrative assistant at the facility.
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To this day, no one knows why Scout was so drawn to the nursing home.
“We just knew that he belonged here,” said Elsey, adding that staff checked with residents for allergies, and ensured everyone was comfortable with having him around.
Staff at Meadow Brook agreed to share the responsibility for taking care of Scout — whose age is not known, though his vet suspects he is somewhere between 10 and 12 years old. The care facility is divided into several separate units, and each has about 20 residents, most of whom are seniors with health issues. Since 2017, Scout has been living full-time as a resident pet in Glacier Hill.
While Scout has the run of the place and regularly visits other parts of the building, “he definitely knows that this unit is home. It’s where he feels most comfortable,” said Jenny Martinek, the facility’s household coordinator.
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For the past six years, Martinek has been Scout’s primary caregiver. She ensures the nursing home is always well stocked with his preferred kibble, and she takes him for vet appointments.
“If I’m here, he’s following me everywhere I go,” Martinek said.
He has his own bed in the shared living room of Glacier Hill, though he often spends his nights curled up next to residents — especially those who offer him ample treats or seem like they could use comfort.
“He senses that,” said Martinek, explaining that Scout can detect when a resident is sad or sick. “He feels that he’s protecting everybody. He’s always on duty.”
But on occasion, Scout demands protection for himself, she said. During a thunderstorm, for instance, he will always cuddle with a resident he thinks will keep him safe.
Staff at the nursing home adore Scout, but the residents are especially pleased to have a pup around. In fact, in February, they voted at a monthly council meeting to crown Scout “Resident of the Month.”
Having a resident pet is “not what you would expect to see in a nursing home,” Elsey said, adding that he is free to roam around the building, and regularly peeks his head into residents’ rooms to check in on them throughout the day. He can also gauge if a resident is disinterested or wants space, and generally does well with respecting boundaries.
Shirley Sawyer, 82, who has lived in Glacier Hill for about a year, said Scout’s companionship brightens dull days.
“He’s just a perfect dog,” she said. “You can pet him; you can talk to him. He comes in and lays down with you.”
Plus, she said, “he doesn’t do a lot of barking.”
Before becoming a resident at Meadow Brook Medical Care Facility, Sawyer had two cats. She feels relieved to still have animals around her.
“It’s very nice to have a dog,” Sawyer said, adding that she — along with the other residents who live in Glacier Hill — see Scout as their own. “It makes it more like home.”
While he looks out for all the residents, he seems to be somewhat selective with snuggle time.
“He does have favorites,” Martinek said, noting that the pup has a natural preference for residents who offer him plenty of treats.
“He just kind of picks his people,” said Tomczak.
Scout is indiscriminate, though, when it comes to supporting sick residents.
“He is pretty intuitive. He knows when our residents are not doing well and getting ready to pass,” said Elsey. “He’ll go in and stay in their room with them and give them comfort.”
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Earlier this year, staff launched a fundraising initiative called “Scout’s House Paws for the Pantry.” They are raising money and gathering supplies for the animal shelter that rescued Scout off the streets.
“We thought it was just going to be our staff donating,” said Tomczak. “Next thing we know, the news got a hold of it and it went viral. We received donations from all over the world.”
Scout’s story was also recently chronicled in the Detroit Free Press, which drew in more donations.
“I’m so happy and thankful that they decided to do this,” said Belknap, the shelter director, adding that she’s thrilled the nursing home staff adopted Scout five years ago. “It’s great that he’s over there and he gets to live his life and make other people happy.”
Indeed, the joy goes both ways.
“It gave him a better quality of life as much as it gave the residents a better quality of life,” Elsey said.
After being abused and abandoned, Scout now knows what it’s like to truly feel loved. And in return, he gives love — in abundance — to those who could use it most.
“We couldn’t imagine this place without him,” Elsey said.