Column: Pets important in the lives of many seniors

How should we or how can we replace our dear “Mitzy” or “Ben"?

Despite the recent hot weather, our coffee room was cool and welcoming enough to attract our usual members for their get-togethers. At our main event, the summer barbecue at Rotary Park on the waterfront, a full capacity crowd enjoyed steak, chicken and trifle plus lovely weather and a few rounds of bocce ball. Altogether a big success. This scene illustrated the team spirit we enjoy together. In a little over 30 minutes, four canopies, tables and chairs (even tablecloths) had been assembled for 90 people. Clearing and packing up was equally fast.

Coming up we have a pancake breakfast mid-month and a beach picnic and garage sale early next month. Our annual membership, due August 1, costs only $15. We are very happy to meet newcomers, show them around, give them coffee, and sign ‘em up.

In the general mix of conversations and reminiscences at the centre, one is struck by how often a pet is mentioned. It makes one recognize how important a pet is in the life of many seniors; some of whom freely admit that they talk to their cat or dog and know that he or she responds through the eyes or a tail wag. This brings up the lovely thought of how much loneliness or sadness has been averted through the presence of a ‘true friend’ in the home. True, that friend may be covered with fur and running around on four legs.

It seems there are so many new things out there for pets. Of course there are a few gimmicks; for instance, a “Cat Cafe” in Vancouver. What it also highlights is the increasing cost of pet ownership, perhaps a worry to some seniors, one being veterinary care which is a must in this day and age. Then there are the ‘optionals’ — a friend was recently offered teeth cleaning for her nine-year-old Tabby” the cost just $750. This is, of course, an extreme example and, yes, she was told to get her own toothbrush to continue the cleaning.

To mention again, much happiness and contentment is gained from the presence of a loving friend. However, the downside occurs when living conditions do not allow pet ownership. For such persons (the writer is one) the only options are petting or walking a neighbour’s dog and mingling with pet owners or simply living with memories of yesteryear.

Sadly, the most dramatic and painful of such memories are those when the time comes for that awful necessity of holding a dear friend in one’s arms until the eyes close forever. Then comes the grieving, which is not always understood by others who may not realize the deep feelings involved and how acute the sense of loss really is.

Often after such an event, the question arises: how should we or how can we replace our dear “Mitzy” or “Ben”?  Sadly, there is no clear-cut answer, except to consider our present circumstances  and how we see ourselves in the future.

So to sum it all up, thank goodness for the presence of animal life in our world (including those lovely horses); but, particularly, the cats and dogs… these felines and canines who provide us with company and affection.  Okay, some felines may not show it too overtly, but it is there.  Also, let us remember how fortunate we are to live in a society where pets are treasured and wildlife is given its due respect.

— Roy Jones is a member of the Qualicum Beach Seniors’ Activities Centre. Open 9 a.m.– 3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at 703 Memorial Ave.  Call 250-752-0420 or e-mail qbseniors@shawbiz.ca or visit the website: www.qbseniors.ca

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