There’s a lot of fun to be had when owning a puppy, but for some of us, an older dog can make the perfect companion. Senior dogs for seniors can provide the perfect level of love and companionship. Tim Falk reports.
Loving companion to Barbara Gabogrecan, 67, and her husband Pete, 65, Cameo is one senior pooch who loves human company and plenty of cuddles. Now 12 years old, this Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is deaf but otherwise in good spirits. “Originally she was my mum’s dog but Mum passed away late last year aged 91,” Barbara says. “Her last two months were spent in a nursing home and I took Cameo with me to visit her. Cameo would lie down beside Mum on the bed and Mum would manage to lift a finger to pat her paw.”
Barbara says Cameo is a typical “sweetheart” — she does not insist on anything except love, cuddles and tummy tickles. “Pete has a chronic back condition and is bedridden for days at a time. He also has to have a knee replaced and when he is out of bed, he is in a wheelchair. Cameo spends all her time sleeping with him, either on the bed or the lounge beside him,” Barbara says.
But it’s not only Pete that Cameo looks after. Barbara herself has had to recover from a stroke and a brain tumour, and she says her pets (she and Pete also own a five-year-old Cavalier and a cat) played a huge part in helping her get back on her feet.
“When I came home after surgery, Pete was suffering from his back. As he was bedridden upstairs (and I wasn’t supposed to climb stairs), I had to prepare all his food and drink and get it upstairs to him. I found I had to stop about every three stairs and rest — there are 14 stairs — and the dogs slowly went up with me. Every time I stopped, they stopped and did not rush past me as they usually do. They seemed to understand that I was not quite right and they emotionally helped me through this tough time,” Barbara explains.
And for the stage Pete and Barbara are at now in their lives, Cameo makes the perfect companion. “It is quite unusual the way she sits on our knee and puts her head against our chest, then tilts her head back so that she is gazing at our eyes,” Barbara says.
“Being able to pet her and have her respond in such a loving way certainly makes us feel good. She also is a great companion, as all dogs are, but with us all being older there is a sense of peace between us.”
Meet Blue, a seven-year-old Siberian Husky who has a very special job. As well as being a loving companion to his owner, Martine Sloper, Blue has a very important job as a Delta Society Therapy Pet. Since 2008, Blue has made weekly visits to the Elouera Gardens Christian Retirement Village in Cherrybrook, NSW, to act as a sort of furry therapist for the village’s residents.
“Blue brings great comfort and joy to the residents who eagerly await his visits,” Martine says. “Many believe that he is actually their dog and that I am simply his caretaker. They take great interest in Blue’s wellbeing and activities.
“I am particularly fond of the greeting we often receive: ‘Blue is here! And the dog girl, too!’ I am like the caped crusader’s sidekick. It is a fabulous feeling to bring so much joy and happiness to the lives of others.”
For his part, the gentle and placid Blue just laps up all the attention. “Blue is brushed and given small treats, which I supply, though the occasional Arnott’s biscuit is ‘accidentally’ dropped on the floor for him,” Martine says.
“The tactile experience of patting Blue and running fingers through his velvety soft fur is particularly comforting and enriching. Blue is gentle with those who are frail and playful with others. Conversation becomes animated and stories are told of remarkable canines that have brightened their lives. Blue will often join in the discussion with his Husky-style chatter. Blue’s ‘talking’ is a great source of amusement for the residents. Many complain of having cold feet so that he can rest his head on them to warm them.”
Blue has also done volunteer work at Hornsby Hospital and helps with the puppy preschool classes at Normanhurst Vet Practice. Unsurprisingly, Martine can’t help but sing the praises of her remarkable pooch. “Blue provides a wonderful diversion, offers hope and gives love,” she says.
“I feel it a privilege to have Blue in my life. Finding him proved to be a truly reciprocal rescue for myself and so many others in need.”
The Delta Society
The Delta Society is a registered Australian charity that helps people through positive, supportive and enriching encounters with dogs. To find out more, phone (02) 9797 7922 or log on to www.deltasocietyaustralia.com.au.
Did you know?
Pets have been found to have significant impacts on lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels in their owners, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease. Seniors who own pets even visit the doctor less often than non-pet owners and have improved longevity.
No matter what age, every living being deserves to experience the special bond shared by animals and humans. Age should never be a barrier for pets looking for a home but, sadly, dogs that are getting on in age often prove harder to re-home than their younger counterparts.
To combat this problem, Animal Aid launched Seniors For Seniors, which aims to bring senior pets and senior citizens together through an adoption program. “Senior pets are ideal companions for senior citizens because they are generally already housetrained and have been through the highly active puppy and adolescent phases of their lives and therefore tend to be less demanding,” says Animal Aid’s Debra Boland.
As well as the many health benefits pets provide, one of the most important roles that pets can play is that they are the perfect antidote to one of the biggest threats to the elderly — loneliness. “Evidence suggests that the care and attention required by pets really does help seniors to stay more active and healthier. Pets help establish routines and create a variety of opportunities for social interactions,” Debra says.
“Seniors For Seniors is a win-win situation for all the parties involved. We find homes for senior pets, seniors reap the rewards of pet ownership and ultimately the senior pets get to do what they do best — love their owners.”
Jane Cook, who adopted a nine-year-old Jack Russell named Buddy from the Animal Aid shelter, says having a constant companion has changed her life. “Having Buddy in my life has given me renewed joy, especially with the unconditional love and company he gives me,” she says.
For Denise Barth, her senior pooch, Max, is the perfect companion. “Max is 13 years old and is a Fox Terrier,” she explains. “He was a rescue dog from the RSPCA in Melbourne. Over the 13 years, he has become very much a family dog, and as he was getting older he was having a lot of trouble with arthritis due to a dog fight he got into when he was younger, and impending old age.”
To control Max’s arthritis, Denise began giving her pooch Rose-Hip Vital Canine, a natural anti-inflammatory, and since then Max has never looked back. “He now plays with our daughter’s dog, Zahlia, who is only three and is a Fox Terrier also. [He] runs and jumps — it is so good to see,” Denise says.
Perfect for seniors
A three-month clinical trial showed that Rose-Hip Vital Canine may be of benefit for improving the joint health and general wellbeing of active and ageing dogs. Dogs taking the product typically had improvements in their condition after about three weeks.
Outcomes from the clinical trial resulted in statistically significant improvements in mood, motivation, co-operation, working capacity, and even fur quality. Customer feedback supports a growing list of uses for this natural all-round supplement including immune system support and general wellbeing, arthritis and joint mobility, coat and skin conditions, preventative for joint problems, and recovery after surgery, injury or exercise.
Rose-Hip Vital Canine is plant-based and sustainable, it does not contain any animal ingredients (including shellfish), yeast, gluten, wheat, dairy, lactose or GM ingredients and it is safe to take with any other medications.Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory