The Power of (Puppy) Love
Some community events can’t help but boost one’s faith in humanity (and canine-ity). That was the case with Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital’s dedication of the Alvin and Elaine Mintzes Fund for the Care of Levindale Animals on June 19. The event also included a plaque-hanging ceremony “in loving honor of employee Paulette Carter and in dear remembrance” of her poodle, Lincoln, who died in 2013 after 12 years as a Levindale “volunteer.”
Major philanthropists to Jewish, medical, educational and cultural organizations, the Mintzeses wereknown for their generosity and kindness. After her husband of 51 years passed away in 2005, Elaine Mintzes continued with the couple’s philanthropic activities. While hospitalized at Levindale in 2011 and 2012, Mintzes was greatly helped in her recovery by the companionship of Lincoln, a poodle that was part of the Eden Alternative and Neighborhood Model of care at the hospital. The first facility of its kind in Maryland, Eden is based on the philosophy that patients do better in a home-like environment where they are surrounded with other patients and staff, are able to choose when and what to eat and how to decorate their apartments and are visited by children and pets.
For Mintzes, the visits she received from Lincoln and his owner, Paulette Carter, a Levindale employee for the past 36 years, played major roles in her recovery. At the event, Mintzes addressed an audience of more than 75 people in person and by pre-taped video. She praised Carter for her
dedicated service to Levindale.
“Paulette was the kind of employee who stood out. She never inquired if a task was part of her job description and had a unique style of befriending patients, staff and families,” said Mintzes. “She and Lincoln were inseparable; they were soul mates. He acquired his gentlemanly character from Paulette’s demeanor, and I hope Levindale is blessed to have Paulette for another 36 years. [Paulette], you bring light and brightness to everything you touch.”
After that, it was time for Mintzes to sing Lincoln’s praises. Mintzes began by noting that Lincoln was the first dog to be honored in Levindale’s [more than]100-year history.
“Lincoln had all the attributes of a human being,” she said. “When I spoke to him, I was speaking to a human being, not a dog. Lincoln was more therapeutic than medicine. “Lincoln had custom-made sweaters inscribed with his name,” she continued. “They said, Lincoln: a gentleman and almost a scholar!’ Everyone loved and admired him. They called him a jewel.”
Also on the afternoon’s program was Dr. Elizabeth McDonald, a local veterinarian who confirmed that animals are known to have a calming effect on people, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure and brightening the mood.
Longtime volunteer Betty Seidel reminisced about Lincoln, and Barry Eisenberg, executive director and COO of Levindale, delivered the program’s welcome and introductions and dedicated the plaque that will honor Carter and Lincoln.
“No other dog will ever be Lincoln, but thanks to the Mintzes Foundation, other pets will bring comfort to our residents,” said Eisenberg.
Carter, Lincoln’s owner, also spoke about her beloved pet. “Lincoln brought a smile to everyone,” she said.
Rabbi Chaim Landau, rabbi emeritus of Ner Tamid Greenspring Valley Synagogue, was a surprise guest, giving an impromptu but spirited talk about the power of pets.
“I’ve never spoken on behalf of animals before,” said the rabbi, “but do you know how God tells Noah to save the animals first? That was because humans will give Noah a hard time; animals won’t. You can speak to a pet for an unlimited period of time, and he will listen for an unlimited period of time. Afterward, he will look at you with those two eyes that say, I understood every word you said.’ Then, if you’re lucky, he’ll cover your face in licks. The love of an animal is precious as any gem.”
Despite Lincoln’s absence, there was another dog in attendance. Griffin, a Siberian Husky mix who recently completed a stint performing in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and his master, Gregg Boersma, were on hand to provide entertainment. Boersma and Griffin, who narrowly escaped being euthanized at an Ohio shelter, wowed the crowd with several amazing tricks before refreshments were served.