Puttin’ on the dog … the Elder Dog that is

My mother loved animals and she loved looking after them.

When I was growing up we had cats, turtles, dogs and backyard-chickens. After my sibs and I left home, weekend visits included a tour of her menagerie: canaries, budgies, rabbits, and fish, but it was her dog that always gave her the most joy and companionship.

One of the hardest moments for her was when she had to give up her beloved Katie, a loving, well-mannered miniature poodle she had trained from puppyhood. A stroke and other health problem made it impossible for mom to care for Katie.

But my mom was lucky. Her brother willingly took Katie into his home where she was well cared for, but this came with a price. Her brother lived hours away and mom rarely got to see her longtime companion and I now believe suffered because of it. 

While researching my most recent documentary project – “Dog’s Best Friend”, a 5-part series for BellMedia’s FIBE TV1 community channel – it became clear that pet ownership improves your physical and mental health. 41% of Canadian household include at least one dog; 37% include at least one cat.

Research shows living with a dog (or cat) lowers your stress, reduces your risk of depression and increases your physical and social activity. 

Dogs rule.

I also came across Elder Dog Canada an organization that’s all about helping older people   – like my mom and older dogs like Katie – maintain their relationship as long as possible.. 

Elder Dog Canada was founded by Dr. Adra Cole. Its values and programming draw heavily on Dr. Cole’s work with research partner Dr. Maura McIntyre.

Excerpts from its website explain:

“Our mission at ElderDog is to honour and preserve the human-animal bond through care, companionship, commemoration, and education.”

“Their research projects – including: Living and Dying with Dignity; Putting Care on the Map: Portraits of Care and Caregiving across Canada; and The Care Café: Understanding Caregiving and Alzheimer Disease across Canada – formed, in part, a foundation for Ardra’s thinking about the crucial importance of honouring the animal-human bond in the lives of aging people.”

I also discovered there are chapters – or “pawds” as the organization calls them – across the country; all run by volunteers. And the pawds closest to me in Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Milton were holding a fall fashion show and fundraiser complete with doggie models at the Aberfoyle Community Centre.

I’m not one for dressing up dogs unless it’s for protection from the weather, but a whole event devoted to fashions for dogs, with the funds raised going to Elder Dog … how could I resist.

I packed up my gear and headed to Aberfoyle, a 30 minute drive from my house. The video above is what resulted. Please enjoy and consider supporting Elder Dog Canada.

Elder Dog website: http://www.elderdog.ca

Find your local Elder Dog Pawd: http://www.elderdog.ca/Pawds/FindaPawdClosetoYou.aspx

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