Name: Mollie Faulkner.
Total dog lover: Faulkner, who has lived in Bellingham for nearly 60 years, has seldom been without canine companionship since she was a toddler in her native England during the early 1930s.
"I could talk about dogs all day," the affable gardener and arts lover says of her involvement in Grateful Dogs Off-Leash Association of Bellingham and Blaine. "When I was a girl, we always had Scotties (Scottish terriers).
"Since coming to Bellingham I had always had larger dogs" - Old English sheepdogs, collies and standard poodles, among others - "until we got Mariah."
Fitting name: Two years ago, when they were looking for their latest dog, Mollie and her husband, Kaye Faulkner, fell in love with a 2-year-old toy poodle they saw at the Alternative Humane Society.
"She just jumped into my lap," Mollie says, explaining how it was pretty much dog love at first sight. "She's the first small dog I've ever had, and Kaye fell in love with her, too. We named her Mariah because she runs like the wind. Mariah was just perfect. She was ready to leave her three puppies."
Off-leash, on-leash: Mollie lets Mariah frolic off-leash every morning at Bloedel Donovan Park, one of eight places in Bellingham available for off-leash activity. Later in the day, she walks Mariah on-leash in Cornwall Park.
"We go out every day," Mollie says. "It's a huge benefit for both of us. She gets her exercise and I get mine."
Making friends with dogs and their humans: Mollie loves the interaction she receives from dogs and their humans during her hour at Bloedel Donovan.
"We have a community of dog lovers," she says. "It's great to be able to make new friends. Sometimes I'm more likely to know the dog's name than the person's name."
Responsible owners: Mollie says Bloedel Donovan and other off-leash areas inspire a sense of responsibility in dog owners, who are expected to scoop poop and keep an eye on their dogs.
"Bloedel Donovan is only partially fenced, and the streets around it are very busy," she says, "so people must keep their dogs in sight at all times."
Bargain dogs: One of Mollie's best dog stories involves a garage sale.
"There was a litter of eight puppies for sale, all mutts and all different looking," she says. "I did not attend that sale looking for dogs, but there they were. I bought two of the dogs for $1 each, and we had them for 14 or 15 years."
Defying stereotypes: When Mollie, who was a registered nurse in her early years in Bellingham, was ready to take on a new dog as she became an octogenarian, she was turned down for adoption by one organization shortly before she met Mariah.
"Oh, I was mad," she says. "We had to give them all sorts of information, and they said I wasn't active enough!"
Considering how busy she has been over the years - teaching country dancing and gardening, serving as arts coordinator for county Parks and Recreation, creating programs at the Roeder Home, among other activities - "not being active enough" is definitely not how she could be described.
Off-leash shock: Mollie remembers many years ago when Bellingham passed its law limiting dogs to on-leash activities away from home. Ultimately, that led to the creation of Grateful Dogs Off-Leash Association.
"There were a lot of unhappy people and there were a lot of happy people," she says with a wry smile. "The leash law was pretty traumatic for a lot of people."
Off-leash information: Mollie hopes to see a ninth Bellingham off-leash venue, at Squalicum Creek Park, open soon.
"I really encourage people to join Grateful Dogs Off-Leash Association," she says. "We actively advocate for responsible off-leash behavior."
Best benefit: When asked what seniors can gain most from their dogs, Mollie has no doubt.
"Mariah makes me laugh every day!" she says. "She's just so cute."
For details about The Grateful Dogs Off-Leash Association of Bellingham and Blaine, call 360-671-4193 or see gratefuldogs.org.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.