Aging with dogs: P.E.I. group that helps seniors care for canine companions growing

ElderDog, an organisation dedicated to helping keep seniors with their pets and to supporting senior dogs, says the group is growing but more volunteers are needed.

'When you have to get old and have … a dog that you love ripped out from you, it's heartbreaking'

Joan Atkinson recently adopted Pippy though Elder Dog, and she hopes Pippy's previous owners has some peace of mind knowing her dog went to a new home, and not a shelter. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News )

Four-year-old Pippy needed a new home after her owner — a senior with some health problems, moved into an apartment where pets aren't allowed.

Through an organization called ElderDog, she avoided the shelter and found a new home with Joan Atkinson.

"It's just more humane all around, for the humans who have to give them up, and for the families who get them," said Atkinson.

ElderDog, a national charitable organization dedicated to helping keep seniors with their pets, and supporting senior dogs has been operating on P.E.I. for over a year.

The group says its presence on the Island is growing, but more volunteers are needed.

A lot better than 'to be in a cage'

In cases where a senior is unable to continue caring for their pet, volunteers work to find foster care for dogs, until they can be permanently rehomed.

In Pippy's case, it was a quick adoption. But part of the group's mandate is to foster dogs surrendered by seniors who are no longer able to care for them — until forever homes are found.

Pippy the dog was surrendered to Elder Dog by her previous owner, a senior with health issue that forced her to move into a smaller apartment.

"It's a lot better to be in a home with a family than it is to be in a cage, even though you're getting good care, you can't beat the human touch," said Ruth Courtney-Beck, the Pawd Leader of ElderDog on P.E.I.

The organization also hopes to offer seniors some peace of mind when they're placed in the position of having to give up their animals.

"Little Pippy belonged to a senior who had to move into an apartment that didn't take dogs," said Courtney-Beck.

"She was heartbroken. She didn't want to give up her dog, but did give her to us knowing we'd have her best interests at heart — and she's found a wonderful home, and that gives her peace of mind."

The group is also working to get landlords to do more to support keeping seniors and their pets together, by offering a trial period for new senior renters with a dog — as opposed to outright refusing the animal.

Helping seniors keep canine companions 

Aside from helping with fostering and adoption, the idea is to keep seniors with their animals as long as possible.

Volunteers help the senior take care of the pet — whether that's taking it for a walk, to the vet, or to visit the groomer.

Ruth Courtney-Beck & Brenda Hancock are with Elder Dog P.E.I. The group is looking for more volunteers to help seniors care for their dogs, or to assist with fostering. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC News)

"It's bad enough getting old," said Brenda Hancock, an ElderDog volunteer. "When you have to get old and have someone, a dog that you love ripped out from you, it's heartbreaking."

With more volunteers, the group says they'll be able to support more seniors with pets, and help more pets who need new or temporary homes.