'I swear that dog is being good,' says photo submitter Karen Jackson.

Vancouver Island looking for a few good caring canine companions

ElderDog’s goal to expand program of assisting older adults in the care and well-being of their dogs

Throughout the pandemic, many have turned to their pets – particularly dogs – for companionship.

But for those who may have difficulty taking care of their canine companions, a Vancouver Island organization is hoping to find them help.

ElderDog Canada is a national, community-based non-profit whose goal is to assist older adults with the care and well-being of their dogs by providing free assistance with daily activities (dog walking, transportation to pet visits and food delivery), explained Sharon Speevak, communications co-ordinator for the Nanaimo branch.

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She noted in the event that a dog requires either temporary fostering or permanent rehoming, ElderDog can assist with placements.

Currently, there are two branches on the Island – the other is in Victoria – and Speevak hopes other communities will help expand their services.

“Unfortunately with COVID, seniors have become more insular, and we know that dogs are such a special member of their family. We’ve seen that sometimes seniors can’t look after (all aspects) of looking after their dog such as dragging bags of food or driving them to vet appointments. The relationship ends prematurely because there’s certain areas or things they just can’t do, and it’s a devastating bond to lose. We see how valuable this service can be in order to prolong the relationship.”

In May 2020, the group created the mid-Island branch; by September they officially opened their doors and have about 40 volunteers who assist within their area. Speevak said they are only able to provide direct service to clients living within the immediate Nanaimo area, but they have received requests for services from people from Ladysmith to Port Hardy.

She explained that if people outside the area are willing to volunteer, the Nanaimo branch would support them with resources to assist. Areas that volunteers can help include visiting a senior’s home in order to better ascertain their situation and needs; walking a dog; picking up and delivering pet food to the senior’s home; fostering a dog whose owner is temporarily unable to care for them (hospitalization) or meeting with a senior who wishes to permanently rehome their dog in order to obtain the necessary information to enable ElderDog to find a new home.

“If a senior can no longer care for that animal, without an organization targeting this issue, the dog will go into the regular system of adoption – it’s difficult for an older dog to get adopted. Our fostering and rehoming are very specialized and we market to people who want senior dogs.”

Additionally, ElderDog is considered an essential service, so Speevak noted volunteers are authorized to go into a residential care home or other facilities if need be.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Speevak at elderdognanaimorcore@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page.

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