Sometimes all a senior has in life is a four-legged companion and sometimes those need help, too.
That is the mission of ElderDog Canada, a national, non-profit organization dedicated to honouring and preserving the human-animal bond between seniors and their canine friends.
ElderDog Canada was established in 2009 by Dr. Ardra Cole and already has 1,000 volunteers in 21 chapters from coast-to-coast across the country.
A “pawd” has been started in Vancouver, but the organization is now looking to start one in Maple Ridge.
Dr. Cole, a university professor, started the organization after working on an extensive study with research partner Dr. Maura McIntyre. They focused on family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. What they discovered was the significant role family dogs and other pets have in the care-giving experience.
Then, when Dr. Cole’s brother suddenly passed away, she found herself adopting his canine companion, Mister Brown, an aging chocolate Labrador retriever with a crippling, cancerous growth on his leg.
This got her thinking about what happens to such animals when their companions can no longer care for them.
ElderDog Canada provides help for seniors with daily dog-care activities, including foster care and adoption of older dogs, as well as long-term care planning.
The group also provides bereavement support, commemoration and perpetual care services for dogs.
Seniors who qualify for the service typically live at home with a canine companion and may have health and mobility challenges. Some also have financial and physical obstacles to providing routine care for their pets, or need assistance at home. Others need help with plans or arrangements when they move to a short- or long-term care facility.
Karen Lewis, vice-chair of ElderDog Canada, said volunteers help with in-home support.
“Volunteers go in and help walk the dog or if the senior needs help brushing or whatever the case may be. Non-technical. We’re not veterinarians,” said Lewis.
The organization will also put dogs in other homes, if needed, and preferably with another senior.
So far, ElderDog has two volunteers in Maple Ridge and is looking for more to start a chapter here.
The national office provides start-up kits for chapters that include outreach items, such as brochures and bookmarks.
In Greater Vancouver, five seniors have already requested support, including one in Maple Ridge.
“Seniors are such proud people, understandably, and they don’t want to show any weakness because they don’t want to lose their dog and they are afraid of that,” said Lewis.
The organization also works with veterinarians and animal shelters to house dogs.
• To volunteer or receive support from ElderDog, call 1-855-336-4226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go toelderdog.ca.