The Sisters of the Holy Spirit and everyone at Jennings Center for Older Adults are mourning the loss of Gilbert, our Black Lab whom we adopted in April 1999. Gilbert resided with the Sisters of the Holy Spirit and was a friend to many, particularly residents in Jennings Hall nursing home. His death follows a lengthy illness.
(February 13, 1999 – May 21, 2012)
Gilbert as a puppy
In April of 1999, Jennings welcomed a new resident. One of our nursing assistants whose mother lived near the West Side Kennels was sent on a mission to get a female cocker spaniel puppy for Jennings. The plan was to call her “Jenny” and raise her to be a friendly visitor. Instead, the nursing assistant brought us a black lab male puppy because that’s all the kennel had at the time. As we greeted him in the lobby we were perplexed. We couldn’t name him “Jenny.” Someone quipped: “We can call him Gilbert after Monsignor Jennings.” The name immediately stuck.
Three months went by. Gilbert had his own little kennel on Upper Level in the library alcove and was at first very content. As he grew older the call bells kept him awake at night. Suffering from lack of sleep, Gilbert became irritable. It was decided that he needed time off from work and that the convent should take him in at night. The Sisters agreed, and Gilbert took up his job from 8:30 to 5:00 each day as a pastoral care visitor and marketing assistant. He even had a staff id badge to prove it.
It was doubtful whether we would survive Gilbert’s first two years. He had a real attraction to garbage cans, and although Gilbert understood the command “Drop it!” the staff didn’t understand how to use it. Poor Margie Zolan learned the hard way that you don’t attempt to take coveted garbage out of a puppies mouth. Staff in-service training on dog commands followed. The magic second birthday came on Feb. 13, 2001, and Gilbert transformed into a mild-mannered friendly visitor. He knew how to keep vigil with the dying. Families even asked for him at resident wakes. Gilbert became the constant companion of Sister Patricia Raelene in the halls of Jennings.
Gilbert and a resident
Gilbert loved to party. He even showed up in costume on Halloween. He knew the location of every office at Jennings where there were treats in desk drawers. Sometimes meatballs would fly through a doorway if he was walking down the hall at lunch time. Many residents stashed dog treats provided by their family members so they had something special when Gilbert came to visit.
At age eleven, Gilbert developed a problem with his pancreas, and we thought we might lose him. Many advised us to get another puppy to be ready when we had to let Gilbert go. And so, on March 25, 2010, Cassie was adopted. Gilbert loved his little black lab sister. The shy puppy who had suffered badly from abuse became immediately bonded with her big brother and followed close by his side as he “taught her the ropes.” Before long, she knew just which offices to stop at on her way into the building. If Gilbert allowed someone to pet him, Cassie would shyly approach as well. Cassie gave Gilbert a whole new lease on life.
Gilbert checks out his new "little sister" Cassie
During the past two months, Gilbert had episodes of what looked like seizures, although he never lost consciousness. Over the last year, he lost almost thirty pounds, and it became obvious that he was in a lot of pain. Our maintenance staff on several occasions had to take him to the convent on a flatbed cart because he didn’t have the strength to stand. A visit to the vet on May 21 confirmed that he had a growing tumor. The pressure from the tumor in his abdomen was causing stomach pain as well as weakening of his back leg muscles. Knowing that surgery was not a good option for Gilbert, the Sisters decided that it was time for him to end his journey with us.
Gilbert was put to sleep peacefully supported by the tears and comforting cuddles of Sister Patricia Raelene and Sister Mary Assumpta. The maintenance staff solemnly and compassionately buried him in his favorite hide-out – the woods behind Jennings Manor. Gilbert will be missed by the entire Jennings Community, but most especially his loving care-giver Sister Patricia Raelene, his “Grandma”, Sister Mary Assumpta, and his little sister and protégé, Cassie.