Seniors and pets stay together, thanks to ElderDog

Yvette d'Entremont
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Monique Dancause stands in front of her apartment building with her 12-year-old Pomeranian/Pyrenees mix dog, Mitzi. ElderDog volunteer Jennifer Katona helps look after Mitzi for Dancause. (Jenny Gillis)

Monique Dancause probably wouldn't have her dog Mitzi with her today if not for the committed volunteers at ElderDog Canada.

When Dancause was moving into her current apartment, the non-profit organization provided a volunteer to care for Mitzi while the overwhelmed senior completed her move. When management at her new building told her she couldn't keep her dog there, ElderDog stepped in and advocated on her behalf.

Now, because Dancause isn't very mobile, ElderDog volunteers like Jennifer Katona show up to take Mitzi for walks, ensuring the dog gets the regular exercise Dancause can't provide.  Last week, the senior described ElderDog as a wonderful and essential service that enabled her to keep her beloved pet.

ElderDog Canada is the brainchild of Ardra Cole. The Mount Saint University researcher started the organization more than a year ago to help older dogs whose lives have been disrupted by the illness or death of human companion. It also aims to help older adults care for their dogs, keeping the important owner-pet bond intact for as long as possible.

On Aug. 22, the non-profit organization hosted its inaugural HRM meeting to start up an official ElderDog "Halifax Pawd." Ten people showed up, and another 15 who couldn't attend have expressed an interest in helping.

"Right now our challenge is reaching out to and finding the isolated seniors who could benefit from our help," says Anne Villeneuve, a volunteer with the new Halifax ElderDog chapter. "Getting these seniors will be the hard part. We have a diverse group of volunteers already willing and able to put in their time."

In addition to dog walking, volunteers may bring dogs to the vet or groomer's, pick up dog food and medication, or help with basic dog care like nail clipping, ear cleaning and brushing.

"Nothing is written in stone. You don't have to be 65 or older. If you're in a wheelchair or have mobility issues, contact us to see if we can help," Villeneuve says. "What we want to do is keep up the important connection between pets and their owners."

If you know a senior living in HRM who could benefit from ElderDog Canada's services, or are interested in volunteering, email elderdoghfx@gmail.com or visit www.elderdog.ca.

The Halifax group's second meeting takes place in Bayers Lake at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 30.

ydentremont@hfxnews.ca

Organizations: ElderDog Canada, Mount Saint University

Geographic location: Bayers Lake

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