Guest attendant takes pet portraits for residents in Mississauga retirement home

TORONTO — A guest attendant at a retirement residence in Mississauga has been lifting the spirits of seniors by taking “pet portraits” of the residents and their four-legged companions.

“I got the idea because one of the residents confided in me that she didn’t have a picture with her cat,” Ivonne Spinel told CTV News Toronto. “And I said, ‘this is it, I will do it.’”

Spinel said she works at Chartwell Heritage Glen Retirement Residence, and that first photo with Beth and her cat inspired her to want to photograph every resident with their pet.

She said she has also been printing, framing and gifting the photos to the seniors.

“She came by, asked if she could take a picture of Mac and I and I said sure,” resident Shirley said. 

“Ivonne did a phenomenal job in taking a picture because I didn’t have a picture with Buddy,” adds resident Jud.

Spinel says it has been nice to work on her pet portraits’project during this difficult year. 

“It is a very hard time right now with COVID. They are not able to see their families as before,” Spinel said.

“Their pets means the world to them. They give them a purpose every day to wake up, to take them out, to feed them and I thought, why not up their happiness.”  

The residents say they are grateful for Spinel and her kind gesture. 

“I become very emotional when I think about what she’s done for me,” resident Beth says about her pet portrait.

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“To find somebody like Ivonne who would come along and do this kindly gesture at her own expense, you don’t meet very many people like her,” said Shirley. “I’m very happy with the picture. I watch it every day.”  

Spinel says she will continue taking pictures of the residents and their beloved animals whenever she can. 

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“It is a beautiful, beautiful thing to do for them. And they really appreciate it,” she said. “A small thing can make somebody so happy.”

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