Elderdog helps seniors and their canine companions

Monica MacKenzie was using the Marble Mountain festival to spread the word about Elderdog, a charity that looks to match aging dogs with aging folks. For more about Elderdog, visit elderdog.ca.

The Reporter, Port Hawkesbury

STRAIT AREA: Caring for a dog can be challenging for many older adults, but some local seniors, and dogs, are receiving a helping hand.

“We really support seniors who typically live at home with a dog and have either financial or physical challenges providing routine daily care,” said Lyn Thorne, leader and in-home support coordinator for the Strait Area chapter of Elderdog Canada.

Dr. Ardra Cole founded Elderdog in Nova Scotia after conducting research with Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Through her work, she observed the significant role that companion animals play in the lives of seniors. Then, when her brother died unexpectedly, he left behind an aging chocolate lab named Mister Brown, which Cole later adopted.

“It got her thinking about whatever happened to all the other Mister Browns in the world who had their senior owners pass on or had to go to a nursing home,” said Thorne.

Elderdog promotes the welfare of seniors, older dogs, and the bond between them. The group has grown to include 16 local chapters or “pawds” across Canada and became a national-registered charity in 2016. A new pawd was established in the Strait area in February of this year and has since re-homed three local dogs.

Elderdog aims to make owning a dog more accessible to seniors. Volunteers help with anything from walking and feeding dogs, to providing transportation for grooming or veterinary appointments. Temporary foster care is provided to dogs while their owners are in the hospital or are temporarily unable to care for their animals.

Elderdog also re-homes dogs that have been displaced when their owners have moved into a nursing home, passed on, or can no longer keep their dog. Thorne noted that this alleviates a lot of anxiety for seniors who would like to have a dog, but are worried about what may happen to their pet in the future. Seniors interested in adopting can register with Elderdog to be matched with an animal that will suit their individual needs.

“And then they have an opportunity to meet the dog and have them for a few weeks and see if it’s a good match,” said Thorne.

Elderdog provides ongoing support to dogs that have been re-homed through the program, checking up with them yearly and arranging assistance as needed. In the past year, the program has provided support to 220 dogs across the country.

“The companionship of having a dog is so beneficial. It lowers blood pressure, it relieves anxiety, it helps with depression,” said Thorne.

Despite the benefits of owning a dog, many seniors are reluctant to adopt because they believe they may not be able to provide adequate care.

“If there are any seniors out there who feel they might like to have some help with their dog, or if they want to adopt a dog, they can certainly get in touch with us,” said Thorne.  “And then we can give them all the support that they need to keep that dog for as long as they can.”

To register with Elderdog, volunteer, or make a donation call 1-855-336-4226, or visit www.elderdog.ca. Information on the local pawd can be found on their Facebook page, Elderdog Strait Area.