Home > Pet Adoption, Pet Topics > Elderly, Single and Lonely: Seeking Furry Companion

Elderly, Single and Lonely: Seeking Furry Companion

DSC00451Once in a while, we all have the chance meeting with a stranger that touches you in some way, or even changes your life.

Today, I met one of the sweetest ladies I have ever had the lucky chance to meet.

I was volunteering at the shelter (MVHS) and had just returned a dog to it’s kennel, when I noticed this classy, fit, kind-looking older woman checking out one of our bigger dogs. I surmised she was probably in her late-sixties or early-seventies and was concerned that perhaps she was looking at a dog that would be way too much for her. It turns out she was just looking – not to adopt – but more as a way to deal with her anticipation of finding a new “small” dog that could fill the hole in her life. As we started to talk, her story started to unfold in way I had not expected.

I could see from the sadness in her eyes that she must be hurting from the loss of a dog, but what I didn’t know was how much of a loss she had suffered. This dear, kind, sweet woman then began to share with me how she had just had to put her poodle companion of sixteen years, Mary, to sleep only six months after losing her second husband. (As a sad side note: Her last poodle, prior to Mary, had also died six months after losing her first husband. Mary had come into her life to fill the void left after her first husband died.) She was especially sad because Mary had been a special dog. She had no children from either of her marriages and Mary was one of those dogs that just seemed to understand her and seemed to be almost human in the way she communicated with her.

As she mentioned Mary, tears began to well up in her eyes and she became choked up with grief. Suddenly, we were both crying together over the loss of Mary, her husband, and her terrible loneliness. All I could think was how terribly sad and alone she must feel. No kids. No husband. And, no pets left to comfort her in her pain. It broke my heart.

Her story made me wonder of how many older people find themselves in this situation? Lonely and looking for a companion after losing their spouse or beloved pet? What kind of support is out there for the elderly nowadays to help them find a new companion or keep their beloved companion? Maybe this one hit a little close to home, but it bothered me to think that I could be in a similar boat 20-30 years from now.

So, I did a little research and found some great links to some sites and articles that I thought would be helpful. I also invite any of you who may have knowledge of support organizations or groups to share those as well. With so many baby-boomers set to retire over the coming years this is likely to become a much more important topic for all of us.

Pets for the Elderly Foundation – helps to pay for companion pets for the elderly
The Cinnamon Trust – a site in the UK dedicated to helping the elderly to keep their pets by helping with care when they are sick or cannot walk their dog, etc.
Pets’ Influence on the Elderly – the benefits of pet ownership for the elderly
Elderly People and Pets – great article by a vet in the UK

So what happened with my new friend? Read on…

It was only after the woman shared her story about her beloved Mary that I remembered this little dog on the back row who had just come in (after being surrendered by his owner who had been forced to give him up so she could move into assisted living). Here was this sad, scared little dog that had only known the older woman he had been living with for his first four years of life and now was in a big scary place with lots of strange noises. I told the woman about him and his story, and how scared and lonely he was, perhaps he might be a good companion for her. In fact, given their stories and that each of them had suffered such a great loss so recently, maybe they were a match made in heaven. I hope so, but if not, I hope they both find loving companions who can help them heal and find some happiness in life. I’ll keep you posted!

  1. June 22, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    Yes, it is amazing the relationship we can have with our pets, especially in the older years. A companion, someone to talk to, and to give you a purpose for your day, pets can be a great addition to a person’s life.

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