This Non-Profit Is Keeping Seniors And Their Beloved Pets Together

The human and canine bond transcends age, but how do we manage when the body is too old to cooperate?

By Jennifer Grant

Image: Budimir Jevtic

Until death do us part. This is the silent oath we take when we adopt a dog into our lives. From the crazy puppy days to the grand adventures of adulthood, this constant friend is with is through all of the ups and downs that life tosses in our direction.

It seems like it will last forever, but the relentless creeping of time catches up. Achy joints, memory changes, tiredness, weakness – all of these nagging symptoms of an aging body can all too soon become a block for the grand adventures of yesteryear.  What happens when you get too old to care for your best friend?

Image: Wave Break Media

Pets are good for humans – they lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones circulating in the body, and facilitate social interactions that can become more challenging as we age. Just try walking down the street with your adorable fluffer and avoid other humans; it is an impossible task. There will always be at least one person stopping you for a pet and a chat.

The hard truth is, as we get older, we lose the humans we love and also the daily companionship of partners and friends.  This increases our dependence on our canine (and feline) friends for connection.  In fact,  it is believed that our relationship with dogs can keep us out of care centers for longer than we would otherwise.

Image: Africa Studio

The good news is that most long term care facilities now offer options for bringing pets, although usually with size restrictions. There are many housing options that make keeping your dog doable, such as independent living apartments.  Even nursing homes are now making allowances for pets. It’s an important change in our society and a recognition of just how relevant dogs are to our overall well being.

Image: Africa Studio

If you are still able to stay in your own home, there are organizations that can help with pet care. Sometimes elders simply need assistance getting their pet to the vet for check ups and vaccinations. Declining health, however, can make it challenging to manage the physical needs of a dog. This is where volunteers come in.

Image: Budimir Jevtic

A non-profit in Canada started in 2009, to “assist and support seniors with the care of their dogs so they can stay together as long as possible.”  Researcher Andra Cole, Acting Co-Dean of Education and Professor of the Graduate Program in Lifelong Learning,  founded the initiative, called Elder Dog.

The foundation connects the dogs of elders with volunteers that will take them for walks and do frequent wellness checks on the pair. Volunteers also take dogs to the vet and even pick up food if their owner can’t get around. It’s an excellent community builder and solution for an aging demographic.

Image: Africa Studio

Pets will love us until the day we die, and think of us even after we’re gone. It’s a commitment that deserves to be honored and maintained. So, it is heartening to find there are solutions for keeping seniors and pets together for as long as possible.