Posts Tagged ‘pets’

Should seniors have pets?


Someone's feeling the love here.

Each year, approximately 500,000 dogs and cats are placed in shelters when their parents die (According to the American Pet Products Association). Abandonment is the #1 reason dogs and cats wind up without homes. So that raises the question: should seniors be allowed to adopt pets that will likely outlive them?

Some shelters say no. The recidivism rate is too high, and the impact on the animals is too great.

Of course, the impact of pets on seniors is great, too. Studies show elderly people with pets are better able to remain emotionally stable during crises than those without, as well as stave off depression and loneliness. AND they’re physically healthier overall. AND pets can help lower people’s blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby reducing doctors’ visits (attention politicians!). Eden Alternative, an experimental elder care philosophy transforming traditional institutions to enlivened environments, has one senior location filled with over 100 birds, dogs, and cats and an outside pen with rabbits and chickens.  They believe that “companionship, the opportunity to give meaningful care to other living things, and the variety and spontaneity that mark an enlivened environment, can succeed where pills and therapies often fail.” And the results look good—over the past five years, they’ve experienced a mortality rate 15 percent lower than traditional nursing homes.

Where do you stand?


For seniors forced to give up their pets due to cost: Help-A-Pet provides financial aid to seniors who need assistance with veterinary costs. Pet Peace of Mind helps hospice patients hang on to their pets. There are pet food banks throughout the country. And the Humane Society has a fantastic list of other financial resources to assist with pet ownership.

For shelters resistant to allowing seniors to adopt: The Pets for the Elderly Foundation and Purina’s “Pets for Seniors” programs pay adoption fees to qualified shelters when they allow seniors to adopt pets.

Part-time pets: Pets on Wheels has volunteer organizations throughout the country, bringing pets to people and senior residences.

Pet trusts: A legal agreement arranging for the care of your pets in the event of your disability or death. Check out the ASPCA primer on pet trusts for more information. (Even better, win one of 5 Pet Trust certificates from Pet News and Views: Win A Pet Trust for Your Pets.)


Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published a study in May of 1999
Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship

National Institute of Health Technology Assessment Workshop: Health Benefits of Pets

What your dog says about you.

guy and his dog twin

Who was that way first?

Akita lovers prefer crime dramas on TV. Fans of French Bulldogs also like David Sedaris. Papillon people tend to read books faster than normal. I’m not just making stuff up; this is a study of over 730,000 respondents, and it’s totally fascinating—if not entertaining.

Did you know dog owners are:

•  More likely to be female

•  Significantly more likely to have a private swimming pool in their residence,
and, speaking of that

•  More likely to think that men should not wear speedos

•  Significantly more likely to have bedroom walls that are a color other than white

•  Tend to watch more TV everyday… and speaking of that, more likely to consider American Idol (or another country’s equivalent) a must-watch

•  Significantly more likely to have had a car during high school

•  Significantly more likely to grow food to eat themselves

•  More likely to drink diet/light soda

•  Significantly more likely to regularly change the air filters on heating units or air conditioner

•  Significantly more likely to own a firearm

•  Less likely to use cotton swabs for their ears

• More likely to have sued someone

Check it out the entire survey here, and you can look up what your favorite breed says about you. Then tell me, what do you think—agree or disagree?

Do you celebrate your pet’s birthday?

5 things to do when you lose a pet.

I’m sorry. It stinks to lose a friend. And though I usually like things that stink, not this. But please take it from this dog (who has a lot of cat friends): We pets don’t want to lose you, either–and we hope we “go” first.

Here are 5 suggestions psychologists make to those who are grieving the loss of a furry friend.

Basset angel5. Express yourself. It’s normal. The pain might be more or less intense than you thought it would be. That’s okay. Talk, cry, scream, pound the floor; do what helps you the most. Write in a journal. Make a poem. Put up a free online memorial, if it strikes you. Your pet wasn’t just an animal; he/she was part of your family. Don’t try to avoid feeling pain by not thinking about your pet. The more you can walk through this–the slower you can take yourself–the faster the pain will subside. And it will. It will. It will. Give it time.

4. Listen to music and move your body. Note: you don’t have to do those simultaneously. If you don’t like dancing, run. If you don’t like running, walk. If you don’t like walking, jazzercise. But whatever you do, start listening to music. Anything you want. Rock, pop, classical, hair metal– if it feels right, do it.

3. Surround yourself with people who care. There are pet loss support groupscat angel and counselors in your area, message boards and chat rooms. People who say “It was just a pet” or “You can get another one” don’t understand– similar to people who say to someone who loses a leg– “You have another one.” Their intention is to make you feel better, but what you need right now is someone who understands.

Pet loss support groups and individual counselors

Pet loss message boards

Pet loss chat rooms:

2. If you’re unable to move, get help immediately. Sadness and grief is normal. Depression is an illness, but there’s treatment. Can’t get out of bed? Don’t feel like life is worth living? Your brain is playing tricks on you; please just call the 24/7 National Suicide Hotline:  1-800-273-8255.

1. When you’re ready, if your lifestyle supports it, adopt another pet– one that won’t outlive you, either. No cringing; you can do this. You can’t tell me that the pain you’re feeling now is greater than– or will overtake– the joy and the love you experienced with your pet. Now, what do I mean by “if your lifestyle supports it”? That is, don’t get another pet now if you want to make a big change– e.g., move to a smaller place in the city, have a new baby, try a new venture that will take 120 hours/week, get major surgery, travel the world. (Except that last one. If it’s in an RV, most of my friends and I would really dig that.)

Additional Resources:

The Association for Pet Loss and Bereavement: An extensive organization offering free services to anyone who has lost or will soon lose a pet.  Their chatrooms are hosted by kind folks who are experienced and trained in grief, and they offer information on assisting kids through this time, too.

“Grief and the Loss of a Pet” by Dr. Holly Nash: An article detailing the stages of grief, the different ways grief can be expressed, and information on helping the elderly who’ve lost a pet.

“Coping with the Loss of a Pet” by Dr. Jeff Feinman: Provides age-specific help for children in coping with the loss of a pet.

Free Pet e-cards: Send one to a grieving friend.

Pet Loss books: Though these are not a substitute for talking with others, they can be a great help. Also a good thing to send to a grieving friend.

Do you have other resources? Please share.

Are you an animal addict?

This post is dedicated to the kindhearted peeps participating in today’s BtC4animals’ Blog the Change. They’re writing for animals. I’m writing for them.

“No budget, no donations and my personal credit cards are maxed. I will eat macaroni and cheese and currently even rent rooms in my house to be sure that the animals have the good stuff. I love doing rescue… but… they say they are going to put the animal to sleep and it’s my fault.”Anonymous Best Friends Member

“I scream that I’ll never foster another dog again… then I see another dog with sad eyes that will die if I don’t help…” -Post on Rescue Anonymous

“I became increasingly isolated from family and friends. My… mom ask[ed] if everything was okay. No, everything is not okay! There are thousands of beautiful, loving animals dying needlessly in shelters every day!” -Julia Kamysz Lane in “When a Rescuer Needs Rescuing”

Sound familiar? Are you spending more time with a rescue than with your family? More money on cat food than on treats for yourself? Feeling angry that others abandon or mistreat their pets? Overwhelmed that it never ends? Sad that you can’t fix it all? Burnout, helping addiction, compassion fatigue–call it what you will– if you think you’ve got it, you probably do. And hugs to you for acknowledging it.

1. You’re not alone. See those quotes above? There are oodles more. Though it’s seldom discussed (and difficult to find on Google!), those who help often need help themselves. An estimated 1 of 4 social workers teeter on alcoholism. 23% of psychiatric nurses smoke. Like you, they’re good people doing good for others but harming themselves in the process. And who can blame you? There are lots of loving animals who need help, so…

2. Know that you are needed, but maybe differently than you think. Once, my mom wanted to give blood. As the Red Cross worker prepared mom’s arm, the blood drained from her face when she saw the needle. The nurse stopped, laughed and gave my mom o.j., saying, “There are lots of other ways to give. Having you flat on the floor isn’t going to help us.” Draining your family of “you-time” or your bank account of money will not only hurt you; it will hurt the animals that you love. And your rational mind knows this, but your heart argues. Which leads to (Excuse the gratuitous photo):

Beagle on a lap

This hound takes care of #1. You should, too.

3. The #1 animal NEED is for you to take care of YOU. As a canine, I know what I’m talking about. When my mom is stressed, so am I. Similar to the airlines’ plea for adults to secure their own oxygen masks before assisting children, it may seem counterintuitive to help yourself before helping us–but it’s vital. A burned out you is no good for us.

Of course, there are differing levels of self care. You may just need some stress management techniques, including just talking about it. Or maybe you need some time off, to ask for help in spreading the workload, or to switch duties (e.g., instead of working at a shelter, host a party to raise money; or instead of answering the phones, donate some dog food). But if nothing will be enough–if you’re addicted to aiding animals you may need to stop altogether and do something else. Regardless, it’s important to focus on the work that HAS been done and DOES get done, the dogs and cats and horses and furries that DO get saved. There are a lot of us. And we will always love you, no matter what.

More help for you helpers:

Animals in Our Hearts: Preventing and Healing the Stress of Animal Care Work: A site full of resources for animal activists with compassion fatigue. Wonder if you’ve got it? Need more help? Check it out.

Best Friends’ Solutions for Burnout: An easy-to-follow guide to ensure you stay sane–great if you feel you’re teetering over the edge or have a friend who is.


My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict

My Recycled Pets: Diary of a Dog Addict          A cute book to help you stay focused on the positive.

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life

Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life A classic book on setting boundaries and saying “no” without guilt. Has a Christian slant.

Rescue Matters: Not for the burnt out, but for the burn-out-inclined; this book is full of helpful reminders and a-ha moments.

Have more suggestions for caring for caretakers? Comments? Please share.
Blog the Change

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