Six-year-old Cooper and four-year-old Ellie love Mondays, when Bob Russell – a retired senior – arrives at their Pitt Meadows home to take them out for a walk.
Cooper and Ellie are Anne Burgess-Clark’s two Shih Tzu-Papillon-cross pups, who were introduced to Russell by ElderDog.
ElderDog is a Canada-wide non-profit run by volunteers who help seniors with their dog’s daily activities.
“The intention really is to provide services to seniors,” said ElderDog’s Christina Saremba.
“A senior can be someone, let’s say, 55-plus, but there isn’t any specific marked age… we have some people who are sometimes younger than that, but they might [have a disability] and need some help with their guide or assistance dog.”
Burgess-Clark contacted ElderDog in July, after she was advised by her orthopedic surgeon that she should not be taking the dogs out.
“The reason I use [ElderDog] is because of my health, I am not able to walk them,” said the 62-year-old Pitt Meadows resident.
So to support the local senior and her dogs, ElderDog paired them up with Russell.
“He’s still mourning, lamenting the loss of his dog he loved so much from three years ago,” said Saremba. “So it’s helpful for him and helpful for Anne.”
Russell is scheduled to walk Cooper and Ellie every Monday, and another local couple walks the dogs on Tuesdays – free of charge.
“They really care about them… in fact they become a part of your family because you trust them,” said Burgess-Clark.
ElderDog was first founded in Nova Scotia in 2009 by Dr. Ardra Cole and it now operates all across the country, including Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
The non-profit offers services in a variety of areas such as dog care support, re-homing of dogs, education and bereavement support.
“Volunteers go to the seniors place of residence… and assist them with their dog needs,” Saremba explained.
”Often it’s dog walking, sometimes the seniors just can’t get out to exercise their dog and walk their dog. Sometimes it’s basic grooming. Then we have volunteers who will help to do transportation. Perhaps the senior needs to bring the dog to the vet… or perhaps they go get food because it’s too heavy for the senior to carry.”
In other instances, pet owners make arrangements with ElderDog for temporary foster care.
“And that is something the senior might arrange ahead of time if they know they might be going into hospital and they need to have someone, who they can trust, to look after their dog,” Saremba elaborated.
“So it helps to alleviate the worry for the client – one, that their dog will be cared for well, and by someone who really cares for the dog.”
Money raised by the organization is used to support the dogs, which in some cases can be costly.
“Typically most of the funds that are raised by ElderDog, because nobody gets paid, everybody’s a volunteer, go towards vet bills,” Saremba noted.
All volunteers must complete a criminal record check after completing a volunteer application.
Anyone fostering a dog is also vetted.
And for those seniors who lost their dog, they can arrange with ElderDog to have a memorial set up on a property in Nova Scotia where the non-profit was first founded.
“When a dog passes away they can arrange for a memorial to be there, and every year they do a butterfly release, as well,” Saremba said.
“It’s all positive, I can’t say anything negative,” Burgess-Clark concluded about the service.
For more information about ElderDog visit www.elderdog.ca or contact 1-855-336-4226.