A Canadian charity that started in Nova Scotia is partnering seniors and their dogs with community volunteers to provide extra support in caring for their four-legged companions.
ElderDog was created in Lunenburg, N.S., eight years ago and since then, the charity has grown and is now spreading across the country.
“We’ve got most of Nova Scotia covered now, about eight different ‘pawds’ we call them. One just started in New Brunswick, one in Quebec, two in Ontario and one in British Columbia,” said Kathy Jones, in home support coordinator for ElderDog.
Charity a ‘win-win’ for volunteers
When she’s not working, Sonya Michels volunteers her time to walk Jake, an 11-year-old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever.
“I chose to volunteer because I love to walk. My dog passed away about two years ago, I found out about the group on Facebook so I thought what a perfect fit,” Michels said.
“I like to walk, I missed having a dog, so I met Jake and its been great, win-win.”
Elderdog service ‘to the rescue’ for seniors
Jake’s owner, David Griffiths, is grateful for the ElderDog service. The senior said he used to walk his dog nearly five kilometres every day.
Unfortunately, diabetes and a few heart attacks have recently slowed him down.
“Now I don’t have any energy and I can’t walk the distance anymore so this ElderDog service comes to the rescue,” said Griffith.
“They’re all nice people, all very friendly people and dedicated because they’re dedicating their time, no profit to themselves and to me, it’s just great because my dog can still get his exercise.”
Keeping the human-animal bond ‘as long as possible’
Volunteers don’t just walk dogs. They also take pets to the vet, groomers and even pick up food for folks who can’t get around.
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Jones said the goal is to keep the human-animal bond between the senior and their pet going as long as possible.
“There’s nothing quite so special as the bond between an owner and their dog,” said Jones.
“When you get a senior and their senior dog usually, they’ve been together for a long, long time. To try and separate those two if something happened like going into a nursing home or a hospital for a surgery, it’s very, very difficult. And in a lot of cases, almost every case, our dogs are our family so we’re very passionate about them.”
ElderDog also fosters, re-homes dogs in need
That passion has also translated to other services provided by the charity.
ElderDog volunteers also work to foster and re-home dogs in need. Rex, a 12-year-old Border Collie/Newfoundland dog mix, is one of the dogs currently being fostered and looking for his retirement home.
Rex was recently separated from his owner after they had to go into an assisted living facility. Karen McEachern, a volunteer with ElderDog, had been walking Rex for a few months before deciding to foster him.
“When his owner ended up going into care, there was an opportunity to foster so I volunteered because we had already fallen in love at that point so it made a good fit,” said McEachern.