MARSHFIELD − At age 99, Wallace "Wally" Rockwell was ready to move from his longtime house in Norwell to a retirement community, but he wasn't going anywhere without his dog.
Sunny, his 3-year-old Jack Russell terrier, had captured his heart quickly after his previous rescue dog, Alice, a shepherd mix, died of leukemia at age 14 last year. A neighbor, Lee Ames, helped him find Sunny, who needed a home, through the Scituate Animal Shelter.
Sunny has been just as vital for Wally's sense of well-being. The dog, who loves to sit on his lap, gives him a reason to get up in the morning and a happy routine to the day. Wally simply gets lonely without his best buddy beside him.
One day, Wally suggested to his daughter Elizabeth that they drive down to check out the Village at Proprietors Green, a senior residence in Marshfield.
He knew he would enjoy being around the people, activities and meals. The biggest selling point was that if a new resident already has a dog, it is allowed to come with them. That was perfect for Wally's plans to rent a one-bedroom apartment in independent living. Valeri Williams, director of resident services, and another staff member even bring their dogs to work.
"That's fine. ... Do you have another family member who might be involved?" Laken asked, unaccustomed to such independence in a near-centenarian.
Today, you will find Sunny and 100-year-old Wally in a first-floor apartment, near the front entrance. Sunny sleeps on his own blanket on top of the foot of Wally's bed. A sliding glass door in the living room allows him to go outside to the patio.
"That's my table up in the corner there − there are five of us every evening," Wally says, giving a tour of the dining room. "Boys and girls from the high school are the servers."
Wally is not the only resident with a dog. His neighbor Marie Murphy, who turns 89 in August, proudly introduces her 10-year-old miniature poodle, Archie. They have lived there for two years and she also walks him outside often.
"I'm very attached to him," she says. "He's my companion."
Lois, another resident, says, "He also adds a lot to her friends."
Wally, who reached triple digits May 17, is one of the oldest residents and regarded as quite remarkable.
"He still drives," a resident says. Wally smiles and adds that he stays close to home, driving the few hundred yards to shop for food at Roche Bros. or to eat at nearby restaurants.
It's not really a surprise to him that he made it to the century mark. His mother lived to 109.
"I'd rather be younger," he says but strolls right along, making graceful conversation, as Sunny scampers ahead to greet other residents.
This winsome pair have a daily routine: After breakfast and lunch, they walk twice a day and may go to an activity such as bingo, a music program or the on-site movie theater.
"This dog is a beautiful dog," Murphy says. "And he doesn't bark."
Wally has just one correction. If there is a movie or TV show about dogs, and Sunny sees that on the screen, he is all in.
How grateful we are that Bill Begley, of Weymouth, had such a wonderful outpouring of affection and admiration for his 100th birthday April 16, when he received 546 birthday cards from across the South Shore and several visits from friends and town and state officials at the Dwyer Home.
Bill, a longtime volunteer in Weymouth at both the senior center and other town enterprises, passed away quietly in his sleep over the weekend.
Thank you again to Karen Johnston, director of Weymouth elder services; Mayor Robert Hedlund and his staff; the Dwyer Home staff; and his many other friends, including Muriel Savoy Moloney, for making Bill feel as special as he was during his final months. He rallied to the occasion with delight and humor and it was uplifting to see him again. He will be missed by many near and far.
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