Search the internet and you’ll find thousands of dog organizations. One in particular assists aging seniors carry on a healthy relationship with their canine companions.
ElderDog helps dependant seniors care for their furry friends at a time in their life when they are facing more health challenges. Numerous studies have shown canine companions can go a long way in helping seniors feel needed and relevant.
“Having a dog offers an emotional connection, an emotional support. If they are able to get out, a dog offers social support. And it improves mental and physical health,” said Tammy Fulton, co-leader of ElderDog Edmonton.
The bond between a person and their dog cannot be minimized. She cites the example of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s and was placed in a memory care seniors centre.
“We would take in her dog for a visit once a week. When the dog came, she became quite lucid,” Fulton said. She has volunteered with the "pawd" (branch) since its inception in 2017 and currently co-leads with Kim Chivilo.
Volunteers help older owners attend to pets by assisting in feeding, grooming, walking and providing transportation for veterinary visits.
“We will not board a dog while someone goes on holidays. We don’t pay for veterinary care or the groomer, but we will provide transportation. We will not buy food. But we will drive a senior to the pet food store to buy it. If someone cannot afford it, we will find a volunteer to pick up food from the Edmonton Pet Food Bank.”
If a senior is temporarily hospitalized, ElderDog provides foster care for dogs until their owner returns home.
“When they come back, we make sure they have all the supports they need. We also do rehoming if a senior needs to move into long-term care. We rehome the dog and there is no charge.”
For older dogs that have lost a human companion due to a residence change, illness or death and are left without a caregiver, ElderDog makes every effort to find an approved home for them.
“We assist both dogs and persons. Either the dog or the person needs to be a senior.”
St. Albert’s Claudette Larocque volunteers for ElderDog. As a child growing up on Geneva Crescent and raising a family in Oakmont, pets played a large role in her early life. Recently retired, she lives in a condo that discourages pets.
“This is my way of getting my fix of a four-legged friend, meet seniors and render a service to them,” said Larocque.
As an individual who values good health, sports and physical fitness, she witnessed a number of activities shut down due to COVID.
“I go for a walk every day so I thought I could help. I know how a walk can benefit people, and as a volunteer there are the side benefits of meeting new people.”
Larocque's concern is that winter is around the corner and many seniors will remain indoors to avoid slipping on icy sidewalks.
“I really would like to help seniors keep their pets. There are volunteers ready and willing to go and we would like to serve the St. Albert community.”
If anyone knows of a senior or older dog that requires ElderDog’s free services, call 780-885-1226 or email elderdoged[email protected]