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Friday, August 9, 2013

Pet Projects:
Helping Seniors Keep Their Dogs

by Carrie Boyko, CEB
Puppy Oliver Bonded Early with "Grandma"
Having something or someone to live for is such an integral part of life for all of us. This doesn’t change when we’re over age 65. Pets add purpose to our lives and often are the only live-in ‘family’ that widowed seniors may have.

Daily pet care such as feeding, walking and grooming adds an element of parenting that is familiar and gives seniors a warm relationship with their pet. This companionship often builds on both ends, leaving the pair with mutual affection that keeps spirits up and brings purpose to both.

Many elderly citizens who have lost a spouse find themselves falling into a depression as their routine is disrupted and life appears to have little to offer. Adding a pet at this stage can be a wonderful way to brighten the days of a loved one, if they are capable of providing the necessary care for a reasonable period of time.

When my own mother called to ask me to help her find a dog, I knew our recent adoption of Oliver had really tugged at her heartstrings. Having left the little fella with her for puppy sitting on several occasions, it did not take long for her to envision life with a doggie companion. And obviously that vision was a good one.

We searched Petfinder for several weeks to locate a Papillon in our area. Mom had
Mom with Her Boys
gotten her heart set on mirroring the sweet little face of Oliver that she had grown to love. Her new dog, Jacque, has turned out to be a beautiful boy. Handsome just doesn’t do him justice. He has an exquisite face and an affection for her that is immediately evident when they are reunited.

Having recently been injured, Mom is going through a healing process and rebuilding her strength. Walking energetic Jacque has now become a challenge, but we’re here to provide backup care. Jacque has integrated into our family well, enjoying a familial relationship with Oliver and Tanner, while electing to see Patches as prey. Not to worry; Patches knows how to protect herself and we’ve taken measures to give her some space.

To protect Patches from Jacque’s approaches and him from her claws, we established a mid-section of the house to set up a gate. Her private space is located in the area that he cannot access, but she is able to easily jump the barrier if she decides to brave his chase in order to check out the upstairs, one of her favorite hangouts.

Both spend time on our large screened porch for physical activities like lizard chasing, checking out the garden, and encouraging Tanner as he swims and Fetches. Jacque has accompanied us to dog park outings, enjoys visiting the pet superstores, is improving in his leash walking manners, and especially loves having visitors.

One way we’ve helped Mom to continue on the road to wellness is by making sure she gets visits with Jacque. Whether she comes here or we bring him to check out his old toys, both light up with joy when they see one another. Clearly there’s a bond that gives my Mother a reason to do her exercises and continue to get stronger. Mom’s motivation is Jacque! 

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Michelle Spayde said...


This is such a heartwarming post, and I hope that it serves as a gentle reminder to others that sometimes we need to take care of our parents, as well as their furry family members.

Carrie, with Tanner and Oliver said...

@Michelle Spayde: Thanks for your encouragement. I'm sad to report that mom took a bad fall this week and broke her collar bone to add to the other injuries. As a result, we're hunkering down to include Jacque as a more permanent member of the family. Regular visits will continue, helping to keep her spirits up.

Hope your crew is all doing well. :)

Nanny Mcfur said...

Lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

Kate V said...

A few of my local humane societies have programs that give large discounts to seniors adopting senior pets- a great situation for all involved. I also volunteer with a new local pet pantry that is focusing on helping keep pets with their families instead of being turned into shelters due to financial hardship. While we're available for anyone in need, there's a large focus on seniors. There's lots of support out there for seniors wanting to adopt a pet!

Unknown said...

Wonderful post. My friend walks his elderly mother's dog every morning and evening so she can have the companionship all day and night. (It's good for the dog, my friends mom and my friend too!)

Amy Orvin said...

What a great looking group! :)
Makes me smile!

Dawn said...

You helping out with Jacque probably takes a huge weight off her shoulders. Less stress and frequent visits probably make a world of difference for her. She will recover in no time. :)

Guestblogger said...

Hi Carrie, I am a dog owner from Scottsdale. How often should we send our pets (especially the senior ones) to veterinary hospital Scottsdale? I found to be a trusted team when it comes to dog but I am not sure how often we should visit them.

Linda Szymoniak said...

I was able to help a disabled couple keep their little dog, Sammie, when they lost their home. They expected it to be 3-4 months before they'd be in the position to take him back, but it ended up being just over a month and they were SO happy they weren't forced to give him up to a shelter. Sometimes it's just a case of finding a temporary foster when the owner has a situation (hospitalization, loss of home, etc.). It would be great to start a program matching seniors with trained volunteers who could help them (i.e., picking up the dog dodo a couple of times a week, driving the owner and their dog to the vet for appointments, etc. ).

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