As people – and their pets – age, it can become difficult for those people to take care of their animals.
Now a local volunteer organization is filling the void to help seniors with their dogs.
The Guelph chapter of ElderDog was introduced in 2018 by volunteer Sue Wilson.
The organization started in Nova Scotia 12 years ago and has grown in other communities since then.
Volunteers help walk senior's dogs, take their pets to appointments and pick up things like dog food.
There are other situations where dogs need to be fostered because their owner moves into long-term care or unfortunately passes away.
“It sort of comes with the territory that sometimes our support is, you know, only for six months or a year or two and then circumstances change,” said Wilson.
Just this year, eight of the senior clients who use ElderDog in Guelph passed away.
“We will re-home the dogs, which provides huge peace of mind, for so many seniors that are really isolated, they don't have family members, close by or even at all,” said Wilson.
“We hopefully provide most of the care and help for the seniors, when they're still living independently in their own home. If that situation changes, they have the peace of mind, knowing that we will be there to make sure that their dog has a soft landing,” she said.
ElderDog is looking for more volunteers, particularly volunteer foster homes.
Wilson said for some of the senior clients the volunteers are the only people they talk to during the day. So not only are volunteers caring for their pet but also providing a sense of comfort to isolated and vulnerable individuals.
The service is completely free and is driven by volunteers. Volunteers who apply should care for both seniors and dogs. A police record check is also required.
Volunteers go through an orientation process and are paired up with a team of volunteers to show the tasks and responsibilities they have.
There are currently 50 volunteers in Guelph and they are looking for up to six more.
ElderDog Guelph has helped 50 seniors since 2018 and are currently helping 15 clients.
There have been 40 dogs who needed to be re-homed since 2018.
Some clients need to have a volunteer come twice a day to walk their dog, others only once a week to take their dog for a longer walk to release their energy.
“We get much busier in the winter,” said Wilson. “Concerns about slipping and falling on the ice.
“So I think it's ideal for people who want to volunteer to really care about people, especially seniors, and dogs, and kind of understand the importance that a pet like a dog can have in the life of the senior and want to help to strengthen that,” she said.
The service ElderDog provides can help seniors live at home for longer while their dog’s needs are also taken care of.