I think most people nowadays have probably read or heard about all of the wonderful benefits of pet ownership. There is no doubt a host of big benefits.
- Lower Your Blood Pressure– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that having a pet has the potential to lower blood pressure.
- Lift Depression and Help With Post Traumatic Stress-In fact, At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, they’re using dogs to help soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Stress and Anxiety is Reduced– In fact, researchers at the University of New York at Buffalo discovered that people who were performing a stressful task experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a family member or close friend was nearby,
- Can help you stay more active. Having a dog and getting in the habit of taking them for daily walks will benefit you both. Dogs are great walking buddies. And even when you just want to be a couch potato, your dog will urge you to get up and move. After all, who can resist those begging eyes?
But there are things you need to think about as you get older.
My mother-in-law had a cat. Her little cat Callie was a sweet little cat and Pat loved her dearly. But she never thought about what would happen to Callie if something happened to her.
In fact, we are caring for Callie now because when my mother-in-law got to the point where she could no longer take care of her. A stroke and dementia, coupled with Rheumatoid Arthritis made it impossible. We had to step in.
What Happens If You Can’t Care For Your Pet?
So, this is the first Challenge and something that all seniors should think about. What will happen to your pet if you can no longer care for them? No one wants to imagine their beloved pet being sent to a shelter.
A Stroke Changed Everything
Beatrice loved her two little corgis. She took them just about everywhere she went. They were her life and she loved them. But when Beatrice had a stroke the ambulance came and took her away. Her two precious animals were left to fend for themselves in their house.
Her family lived far away and didn’t arrive for several days. It was not a pretty sight when they arrived at the house. The animals were distraught and they had gotten into some mischief. And of course, there had been accidents on the floor.
Unfortunately, Beatrice’s daughter and son-in-law are not animal lovers. They were frustrated with the dogs for making a mess and didn’t understand that they were grieving for Beatrice also. They sent them to a boarding place until they knew what was going to happen. But Beatrice was not going to be coming home. She would be going to a nursing home and she was no longer able to care for herself much less her beloved animals. As such much to Beatrice’s dismay her two corgi’s, were sent to a shelter and she had no say in the matter.
Being a Responsible Pet Owner
I think everybody needs to think about this. And as we get older we need to think about that even more. Because to be a responsible pet owner means to have a plan for those pets. Just like you would want to have a plan for your family. Hopefully, you’ve taken the time to set up all of the legal documents and paperwork that you need to ensure that your family is taken care of. If you have young children you have probably decided who will care for them if something happens to you.
It’s really important to have that conversation with your family. Would they be willing to step in and take care of your pet if you no longer can? Some families will and some won’t. You really need to know. So, what other options are there?
A Texas Option For Continual Pet Care When You No Longer Can
A lot of people in our area are unaware of the Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center this is at Texas A&M. It’s a privately funded state-of-the-art Animal Care Program designed to provide personalized care in a home-like environment. This program is set up and designed help provide the care for your pets in the event that they are left behind if you should pass away or if you should become incapacitated.
This is a place where they can go and be cared for in a beautiful environment for the rest of their life. The center was established at the Texas A&M College of veterinary medicine back in 1993. It was established by a gentleman named Dr. Ned Elliot. His dream became a reality with generous donations from the Luse foundation and Miss Malden Stevenson. Thus, the Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center was born.
Miss Stevenson wanted to support this Center because she said that animals are so important to the elderly. And this Center was devoted to them and their pets. She passed away in 2004. Her four cats, seven dogs, a Pony, and llama all came to reside at the center at that time.
So how does it work and who can use these benefits?
Well first off, they take a variety of animals. They accept dogs, cats, birds, horses even donkeys. There is an enrollment fee of $1,000 for small animals and $2,000 for large animals due at the time of the enrollment. The minimum endowment requirements vary depending on the age of the owner at the time of the enrollment. You can find out more information at their website at http://www.vetMedtamu.edu/ Stevenson-Center/enrollment
Another option may be to forgo actually owning Pets during your later years. My husband and I are in our sixties we currently have two geriatric animals at home. They take a lot of care and money to keep them healthy. We’re still young enough to care for them but we are not sure we will get another pet when they are gone.
One of the animals that were caring for actually belonged to my mother-in-law who passed away a year ago. We’ve been caring for Callie cat for the last 6 years when Pat could no longer care for her. She was lucky she had family members that are animal lovers and were willing to take in her precious pet.
Harder to Care For Pets As We Age- Harder to Deal With The Grief When we Lose Them
And I realize that as we age it becomes harder and harder to both care for an animal and also to deal with the loss that eventually comes. Recently saying goodbye to our dog of 16 years, we are not sure we really want to endure that pain again.
Life Without Animals?
But we love animals so we’ve been looking at all options and there are lots of options out there. I’ve considered becoming a dog walker hiring out my services to walk other people’s dogs a few times a week. After I retire this could give me a few extra bucks in my pocket and at the same time give me that “dog Fix” I so crave. I could also take care of other people’s pets when they go out of town. So that’s one way that a senior could still have a connection with animals and not have the responsibility of home ownership of pet ownership.
Other seniors have begun fostering pets. There are lots of organizations around town who look for volunteers to foster a pet until a full-time owner can be found. Of course, many of the seniors admit getting attached and becoming that full-time owner. So be careful if you really do not want the responsibility.
In the Cypress area, there’s an organization called Special Pals. They have been saving lives in Houston since 1981 dog and cat adoptions they offer low-cost Wellness clinics every Saturday spay and neuter Services microchipping and even boarding because their costs are low it’s more affordable for a lot of seniors and you can volunteer.
You can get your pet fix by volunteering to be part of their afternoon team. You may get to walk dogs, bathe the animals and engage in playtime activities. This is a great benefit for both of pet and the senior.
Keep Animals In Your Life
Getting involved in the community is also a great way for seniors to stay active. And staying active is going to be one step closer to staying healthy and independent. So, the decision is yours. Continue to have wonderful pets in your home, foster, volunteer or maybe set up a business pet sitting and dog walking the choice is yours. Just keep animals in your life to add quality years.