Thoughts to Paws over…

A couple years back when I lived in Thunder Bay,  I worked a polling station at a retirement home and was absolutely impressed when one of the residents came down the hall with her walker, her cat perched on the seat part, accompanying her to vote.   For most individuals, when they move into a retirement home or senior care facility, they are forced to give away their pets.  In my humble opinion, this is just plain short sighted. Housing for the elderly,  should allow for their residents, to keep their pets so they can transition from the massive responsibilities of home ownership and down size to a place that is more manageable.  I know I would not want to move into a senior home if it meant giving up my pet. Too often on rescue sites you see a lovely cat or dog, looking for a home as their elderly caregiver had to change their living situation.  If that were me, it would break my heart and push me one foot closer to the grave.  Physical limitations may dictate that I should move, but my love for my companion would keep me firmly planted where we could stay together.  There are so many health benefits to a senior having contact with a pet!  Often the elderly feel isolated and are not as mobile. As most people can relate, as adult children, we have busy lives and are not as able to get over to see our parents every day, sometimes managing a call is a major accomplishment!  For a senior, having a pet, whether it be a bird or fish, basically another living being to interact with, can make a huge difference and decrease the feeling of loneliness.  There was a woman who used to live a few blocks from me, she had this giant Golden Retriever Hudson, a beautiful-natured dog.  Twice a day, every day, I would see her out walking him, she was stooped over with arthritis, but she never missed their walk.   One particularly icy morning I remember thinking I should see if she needed help getting him out, but before I could get to her, there she was, out in the park with her ice pics on and taking a leisurely stroll.  Walking Hud kept her active!  The health benefits to getting out and moving her body with her physical ailment was the best thing she could do for herself and having that dog gave her the motivation to do so. I know that one reading this might be thinking about the concept that she could have fallen, I know I did, but she was never alone, a neighbour always seemed to be out walking with her.  Not only was she getting exercise,  but so were the other ladies on her cul-de-sac.  Shortly after her spouse passed away, I was saddened to hear that she was moving.  Her daughter lived a couple hours away and the family decided they wanted  Mom closer.  A few months later she came back to visit the neigbourhood, she was telling me about her new place in a retirement building,  but said Hudson could not go with her, so he moved in with her daughter.  She said she got to see him now and then. I was struck with how hard that would have been to lose one’s life partner and then one’s pet.   It made me very sad to think that the two were separated and no longer living together, as she really  loved that dog.  Yes, she still got to see him, that was a bonus,  but that day to day interaction she shared with him helped boost her spirit and gave her something to focus her energies on.   Having an animal is a great deal of work and can be daunting for the most agile of individuals, but with support, the health benefits for a senior far outweigh the aspects which can be a challenge.  I am hoping our world will evolve in such a way that as we age, we will respect the bond between animals and their people and how that relationship can positively influence well being.

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