Sybil Dukehart's days are full, with reading and a little crocheting.
But even more enjoyable, the 92-year-old says, are the visitors she receives.
Especially one four-legged friend named Happy who visits her weekly at the Carroll Lutheran Village Health Care Center in Westminster,where she has lived for five years.
"He is a huge Irish wolfhound, and he is so nice, such an affectionate dog," she said. "If I didn't get to see him, I would really miss him."
Happy is owned by Kathe Lippy of Manchester, who volunteers the dog through Pets on Wheels,part of the Carroll Bureau of Aging's Life Enrichment Program.
Lippy, who has participated in the program for more than a year, travels once a week to Carroll Lutheran Village with one or more of her four dogs.
"Happy is so big he can lay his head down right beside residents if they are in their bed or be face to face with them if they are in a wheelchair. The residents like all my dogs, but I think Happy is their favorite," said Lippy.
The Life Enrichment Program, which coordinates volunteer visitors to 755 county nursing home residents, almost was eliminated because of state budget cuts. But last week,it got a reprieve in the form of a $4,500 state grant.
Peggy Henderson, volunteer services coordinator for the Bureau of Aging, said the budget for fiscal year 1992, which runs from July 1, 1991, to June30, 1992, had been spent. As of Oct. 1, the Life Enrichment Program and its component, Pets on Wheels, would have ended.
Last week, the Governor's Office on Volunteerism came through with a grant to the county Department of Citizen Services that will allow the programs tocontinue through June, said Jolene G. Sullivan, department director.
The grant will allow the department to pay for a temporary part-time coordinator who will work 20 hours a week for eight months, Sullivan said.
Dukehart said, "I was really upset when I thought the program was not going to go on, but now that there will be Life Enrichment here (at Carroll Lutheran), I must say I am very happy."
The Life Enrichment Program, which began in 1975, recruits volunteers to visit patients in nursing homes. Pets on Wheels, which began nine years later, allows pet owners to bring their certified, healthy pets.
Under the programs, some 250 volunteers make daily visits, alone or with their pets, to nursing homes throughout the county.
In fiscalyears 1990 and 1991, the Life Enrichment Program lost 75 percent of its money because of state cutbacks, said Janet B. Flora, chief of the Bureau of Aging.
"Our budget at the beginning of fiscal year 1990 for the Life Enrichment Program was approximately $23,052," she said. "By the end of fiscal 1991, it was $8,517."
The cuts took effect July 1, cutting Henderson's full-time job to 12 hours a week.
InAugust, the state officials again asked Bureau of Aging officials tocut costs.
"We were faced with a 4.7 percent cutback in state grants, which meant we had to cut $18,000 from our fiscal year 1992 budget," Flora said.
State officials for the Maryland Office on Aging said the cuts were based on priority services. Programs such as housing, nutrition and personal care were priority services, but Life Enrichment was not viewed as a priority since it was based predominantly on volunteerism.
Nursing home administrators said they had plannedto continue the volunteer programs.
Don Lewis, executive administrator at Carroll Lutheran Village, said, "I couldn't let Pets on Wheels or volunteer visitors go by the wayside. They really provide such a valuable service. All 99 of our residents benefit in some way or another, be it from visitations or Pets on Wheels. These volunteers areout here every day."
Jeanie Reiter, activities director at Long View Nursing Home in Manchester, said, "We are glad that these dedicated volunteers will be able to continue with this wonderful program."
Lippy said, "I know that the nursing home residents will be very happy. The Pets on Wheels program is a real addition to the nursing home visitation programs. The pets like it, too!"