Just recently, a friend of mine called to let me know that she had to put her cat, Benny, down. She and her 92 year old father were very upset, as Ben is a member of the family and has brought comfort to both of them. She shared the idea that there should be a business that provided pets for seniors or one that adopted pets when seniors passed on. As I began researching her ideas, I did come across a few answers for her regarding pet therapy.
In Edmonton and surrounding area, there is in fact a registered not-for-profit society that does provide free pet therapy through volunteers and their own personal animals. It is called PeTS which stands for Pet Therapy Society of Northern Alberta. This organization recognizes that therapy animals are not service or emotional support animals, but rather therapy for people. But again, unfortunately because of COVID restrictions, the program has been shut down indefinitely. In southern Alberta, Calgary has PALS (pet access league society) and there are plenty of other businesses and non-profits that provide the pet therapy service throughout the province.
There are also a number of seniors who love and care for their own pets. Whether they own a cat or a dog, animals have been proven to enhance and prolong lives. Having and caring for pets provides emotional security in stressful times; helps reduce depression and gives purpose and responsibility to seniors who need more self-confidence or self-esteem.
When seniors feel alone, a pet can provide companionship and comfort. Pets often become one of the family and are loved and love in return. Seniors have more time to devote to an animal and even the benefits of walking the dog have positive health benefits. Psychologist Penny B. Donnefeld says she has witnessed an “animals’ ability to prompt better memory recall in their elderly owners…. Helps the senior focus on something other than their physical problems and negative preoccupations about loss or aging.” https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm
Many people have positive attitudes toward animals and the benefits do outweigh aloneness. If seniors do have pets or are considering owning an animal, there are several factors to consider when and before doing so. So, what exactly are those considerations that should be addressed?
First of all, one must consider what type of pet would best suit your lifestyle. If you are active, then perhaps a dog to walk, but if you have allergies to cat hair, then you might consider a canary. Secondly, pets are expensive, so is there a veterinarian available nearby and do you have the finances to support having a pet if they need shots, food and care? Thirdly, if you live in a facility or care home, find out the rules and regulations regarding pet ownership. Each place of residence has its own policies, so check them. Finally, do you have a plan or strategy in place in case you are no longer able to look after your pet? Perhaps there is a grandchild or relative or friend who would care for your pet in the event you wouldn’t be able to.
There are countless stories people have about pets and many of them bring smiles to a face and warm memories of them being in our lives. This is one funny tale about a dog named Bucky. A man was taking his dog to his monthly veterinary appointment and took his time, pleased to note there was little traffic and time to spare. Because he was early, he decided to take the dog inside, hoping to get in ahead of schedule. As they walked into the cozy, little waiting room, he was again thrilled to see that it was empty but he didn’t notice the confused looks and a furrowed brow of the receptionist. He said a cheery “hello” but was greeted by silence. Then it dawned on him, when he saw the smiling face of his own doctor popping his head into the waiting room, he had taken his dog, Bucky to his own doctor’s office and not the vet’s! Do you have any pet stories to share with others?