Paulette Carter

Paulette Carter, on the staff at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center, brought her dog, Lincoln, to work for years to be a companion to the residents of Levindale. Sitting with her at left, Elaine Mintzes, is establishing a fund in his name to pay for health care for successor companion animals at Levindale. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / June 18, 2014)

About 100 people gathered for a ceremony at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore last week, but it wasn't to honor a person. Instead, they paid tribute to a dog in a way that will help pets in the future.

The story starts with Elaine Mintzes, a longtime city volunteer and philanthropist who was a patient at Levindale in 2012 after suffering injuries in a fire. She remembers having a dog when she was 7; her parents gave the dog to neighbors because she didn't have the initiative to care for it. That was 81 years ago. Since then, Mintzes had no special affinity for pets, until a white poodle leapt into her room at Levindale and sparked a friendship.

"When he wandered into my room that first day, he wasn't terribly interested in me," she remembers. By contrast, Mintzes found herself drawn to the little dog, named Lincoln.

"I thought he might come back if I got some treats for him," Mintzes says.

Lincoln, it turned out, belonged to Levindale employee Paulette Carter, who took the pooch to work every day for more than 13 years.

Mintzes got some dog treats and gave one to Lincoln the next day.

"After that," she says, "he flew by other rooms and came directly to my room. He ultimately learned where I kept the treats, and then learned to open the closet door and get one for himself if I didn't do it quickly enough."

Mintzes and Lincoln bonded for more than a year. When Mintzes went home to her condo, Carter started taking her dog to visit. Mintzes was so insistent about it that she persuaded three doctors to write letters to the managers of her no-dogs-allowed building so Lincoln could come in.

"Lincoln was more responsible for my recovery than the medications Levindale gave me," Mintzes says. And Carter says Mintzes and Lincoln formed a special bond.

"He used to love seeing her," she remembers. "I used to call her 'grandma,' and I'd ask Lincoln if he wanted to go see Grandma. He'd wag his little tail!"

Helene King, media relations coordinator at Levindale, says Lincoln was part of the center's Eden Alternative program, under which several cats live on the property and employees can bring their pets to work to visit with patients. The resident animals are cared for by staff, and that care — including spaying or neutering and food — is paid for by the center. Until recently, that was a bit of a burden. That is, until Mintzes got wind of the situation.

Lincoln died two years ago after a long volunteer career at Levindale, and Mintzes says he was so instrumental in her recovery that she wanted to ensure other patients had the benefit of pets in the center. To do so, she established the Alvin and Elaine Mintzes Fund for the Care of Levindale Animals, with a personal donation to ensure that future Levindale pets get the care they need and can continue living at and visiting the facility.

"For some reason, Lincoln really touched her heart," King says.

Last week, Mintzes hosted a plaque-hanging ceremony at the facility to formalize her fund; the plaque reads, "In loving honor of Paulette Carter and in dear remembrance of poodle Lincoln Carter."

"It was the sweetest thing," says King. "Mrs. Mintzes catered the event and had cookies that looked like poodles. It was a lovely day."

Mintzes says she hopes others will donate to her fund to ensure pets will continue getting and giving great care at Levindale.

"Lincoln knew every nook and corner of the Levindale campus," says Mintzes. "He could have been a tour guide." She says his visits three or four times a week were what motivated her to keep moving through her recovery.

"I haven't gotten over it," she says of the dog's death in 2013. "I grieved more for him than I did for members of my family. Lincoln gave me unconditional love, and he didn't talk back. He was a perfect gentleman. When he opened his bedroom eyes, I became putty in his paws."