Trevor the Brussels Griffon sports a Sooner sweater as he thrusts an inquisitive nose at a visitor. When a camera is brought out, though, he immediately cocks his head and strikes a pose.
“He's a real ham,” someone observes. Trevor's owner, Cathi Doar, just smiles.
The residents of Green Acres, a residential care home at 7601 SW 74, have settled into the living room after lunch. Trevor perches in Doar's lap, watching everyone else watch television. The pair moved to Green Acres nine months ago.
“He's the reason I'm here. Becky was gracious enough to let me bring him with me when I came. It saved a lot of broken hearts,” Doar said.
Becky Shannon established Green Acres with her husband, Cody, about eight years ago. Her grandmother Elsie Dean had died a couple of years before, spending her last days in an assisted-living center, and her death spurred them into action.
“My grandmother was diabetic, and she kept going into diabetic comas,” Becky Shannon recalled. “But they kept feeding her anything she asked for. And you know when you're in your early 90s, you don't necessarily make wise choices. So they were giving all the fruit she wanted, all the sodas she wanted, and she ended up dying.”
Shannon's mother, Donna Coy, pulled Dean out of that facility and moved her to another, but it was too late.
“It was already done — the damage was already there,” Shannon said.
Her grandmother needed help but not to the extent a nursing home would offer, she said.
“If she didn't need to be in a nursing home, why wasn't there a place like this where they could keep up with her?” Shannon asked. “So we sold our house, our cars, everything we had and bought this place.”
She drew inspiration from Fran Gomez, who ran a similar home in Oklahoma City where Becky Shannon worked. Gomez added that little extra push as Shannon was weighing her options.
“She found out she had leukemia, and she said ‘Becky, you need to go to school and you need to do this. You want to do this, you love doing this, and you need to keep it going,' ” Shannon recalled. “So with Fran's insistence and the situation with my grandmother, I decided, ‘OK, someone up there's trying to tell me something.' ”
The Shannons came upon the rambling, ranch-style home just east of Wheatland after a couple of years of searching.
The result is hard to pigeonhole. There is no Arnold the pig or Eleanor the cow on the premises, but a flock of chickens peck around in the back, and a community garden lies beyond. The chickens joined the family about a year and a half ago.
“I always had chickens,” Cody Shannon said. “I was raised in the country.”
Many residents grew up on farms as well, Becky Shannon said, and the chickens have turned out to be a form of occupational therapy. Everyone also feasts on the garden's bounty through the summer.
Inside, Christmas decorations glint in the sunshine, and the decor suggests “home” rather than “facility.” Framed jigsaw puzzles hang framed in the hallway leading to residents' rooms. The Shannons breed and raise Norwegian elkhounds, gentle fur balls who sometimes pad through the house eliciting oohs and aahs.
Visitors, family and otherwise, are always welcome, and about 22 people crowded around the table at Thanksgiving, Becky Shannon said.
Only a few clues suggest that there's something more: the day's date printed clearly on a white board mounted in the entryway, a fire escape map hanging near the puzzles in the hallway, the occasional uniformed worker gliding through.
Potential residents often find their way to Green Acres through word-of-mouth — case workers, home health workers and others have sent people their way over the years.
“I love it,” said Bob Simmers, who moved in almost two months ago. “I wouldn't have it any other way.”
“He fits in,” piped up Verna Schrameck, drawing laughs.
Schrameck comes in every day with her daughter-in-law Lisa Schrameck, who is Green Acres' manager, so the older woman doesn't have to spend the day alone. The structured schedule helps out even a visitor, Verna Schrameck said.
“When I'm not here, I get my days mixed up, and I have a tough time realizing what day is what,” she said.
The grounds are surrounded by a fence, secured with coded gates. The Shannons live there, upstairs in a studio apartment Becky Shannon has dubbed the “escape hatch.” Out back Cody Shannon has his own escape hatch, a huge shop where he restores cars and creates woodworks. A lot beyond provides space for the garden and an occasional bon fire. Cody Shannon said he is thinking of converting one building out there into a greenhouse.
There also has been talk of buying goats as well, Becky Shannon said, but there's no consensus on how to keep them contained.
Meanwhile, she's in the home stretch at nursing school, scheduled to graduate as a registered nurse on Thursday.
Giving up everything wasn't an easy decision, but it's not one she regrets.
“I don't know if it's the American dream,” she said, looking around the backyard. “But it's my idea of the American dream.”
For more information on Green Acres Residential Care, call 745-7735.