Why a Visiting Pet Program Would Be Perfect for Seniors


First, let me say that I am grateful for all the readers who have commented on my bits of trivia. I love writing for you and hope you continue to comment on the things that touch you. Your comments help me to cope as well. We are all in this fight together.

Charlie temporarily got his sparkle back last week.

Over Thanksgiving holiday my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter from New York City and Fargo, ND were visiting for a few days. We love to have company, something that doesn't happen nearly often enough. Oh – and they brought their dog and cat with them!

Neither of us are "pet people." But I am beginning to think perhaps we should be. One of the first things Charlie and I asked each other when we met in 1998 was, "do you have a dog?" We were both relieved when the answer was no.

However, we have both recently found delight in the antics of visiting pets. "Visiting" may be the key word here. A visit from pets, like visiting grandchildren, can be loved and enjoyed for a short period, then sent home with the parents to contend with the inevitable problems.

However, it seems that every time the visiting pets leave we ask ourselves if we should get a pet.

The answer, when it comes to a dog, is a definite NO! Neither one of us is physically able to walk a dog on a good day, much less in New England ice and snow. So a cat may be a YES, until I think about dragging home large bags of kitty litter.

I have trouble enough carrying groceries from the car without adding litter to the mix. The job of cleaning the cat box can also be a cumbersome for someone with poor knees and a weak back; not one I would look forward to.

Caging up a kitty and periodically hauling him/her off to the vet would be another challenge. One also has to consider the expense. My daughter just paid $700 to have kitty's teeth "fixed!" Do you think Obamacare will pay for that?

So what's an elderly person to do?

Charlie was so animated and happy watching the antics of the two critters last week that I feel guilty not bringing a pet into our home. I know it would help his depression and anti-social behavior.

Maybe someone should start a "visiting pet program" where they bring a pet into your home for a few hours a day, then pick it up and take it home and deal with the everyday pet care problems. Now there's an idea for an entrepreneur. We seniors could pay a monthly "rental" fee to have a pet of our choice make regular short visits.

I know there are groups that take pets to nursing homes to bring some happiness to the residents, but I have not heard of a similar program for independent living seniors.

Any takers out there?

In the meantime, we have a stuffed Yorkie that sits in our living room; thank you Winn Dixie. We named her "Kitty" because we don't do dogs. She's traveled north and south with us over the years; we even talk to her and hold her for comfort on occasion. Kitty doesn't bark and we don't have to walk her, and the actual pets think she's the real McCoy. They cuddle with her and drag her around the house.

Have we lost our marbles? Perhaps.

The live family pets, Jack, Josie and Tesla, will be back for a brief Christmas visit – hooray!

Marlis describes herself as a “Gramma who loves technology and has a lot to say.” She blogs about whatever catches her interest: food, books, family and more. For AgingCare.com, she writes about the issues facing the elderly and her experiences caring for her husband, Charlie, who suffers from dementia.

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Hello, Marlis....a friend of mine passed along a web link to me today, to share in some interesting articles. The article on how loneliness affects our health caught my eye. After reading that, I saw the link to your blog. Your post touched me deeply. I am not actively caring for anyone with any type of illness right now, but I did help care for my mother after her strokes and until her passing in 2008. I find myself on the other side of this nowadays. In my fifties, and living my eldest son, I am in a position of "regrouping". I have two precious kitties who mean the world to me. Your idea on taking pets to the elderly in their homes has given me inspiration! How wonderful to bring some joy to a lonely person!! I just had to write and tell you how your post touched and inspired me. I wish the best for you and Charlie. Perhaps I can help to bring some joy and comfort by sharing pets' love....
Great article. There are several organizations that work with visiting animals, including therapy dogs and other pets. Here are some links to larger groups.
Many pet visit groups are small, local nonprofits. I found several by google search and facebook pages. Pet Smart has just partnered with a larger group pet partners as well, which may help groups get the resources they need. I'd imagine community relations and social work depts. at hospitals and rehabs might have contacts within te pet visit community as well for home visits. Here are some links for those who would like to volunteer, do therapy dog training or have a visit.
Pet Partners: http://www.petpartners.org
Pet Partners affiliates search: http://www.petpartners.org/affiliates
Therapy Dog Intl.: http://www.tdi-dog.org
I enjoyed your article and certainly understand about not getting your own pets. I have always preferred cats, they just work better with my personality and lifestyle. However, we place our mother in memory care in April. We made our choice not only on the care provided but also because our mother would be able to have her dog with her. After 6 weeks, it was not working out as my mother dog barks at everything. Caregivers walking down the halls at 2am, a neighbor who wakes up to use the bathroom at 5am would set the dog off. I took the dog to my home as I am my mother's main caregiver since I live in the same city. This way mom can continue to see her dog when I visit. I also have a cat, the dog is very jealous of the cat. Yes she still barks at every little noise, but I put with it for my mother. When we visit, the other residents love seeing her too. They also have a resident dog, he is a big dog too. Dogs do require more time as they are like having a child again. Have you considered getting a bird, maybe a parrot, a canary...whatever works. Thank you for article, good idea about renting a pet for a few hours.