No, that’s not a new support group for those 65 and older. It’s just a great idea for individuals who have two and those that have four legs to come together for mutual solace and support. Think geriatric pets for geriatric people. The benefits of pet ownership have been proven time and again—Companionship: Something warm and soft to caress and hold; a daily walk: increased activity and a reason to get up in the morning.
And these benefits are not one sided. There are so many shelter pets who need homes. All too often, this elderly section of the pet population finds itself abandoned, left homeless after a family moves away or is relinquished because he or she is no longer considered cute. Any humane society or shelter has its share of cats or dogs abandoned to live out their lives in a cage. One such pet, “Mittens”, named for her extra toes, was recently rescued from the Caroline County shelter by Homeports member Traude Harding.
Traude had been living alone for months following her hip replacement surgery last summer. She missed the comfort and companionship of her beloved cats, who had been lost. “I wanted someone to talk to, and to keep me company in the evenings”, Traude said. That’s when she went to the Caroline shelter and found Mittens. Mittens was part of the Mayday Raid which liberated 250 cats from a hoarding situation in Ridgely. Initially, Mittens was lucky enough to be adopted through the PetsMart Charities, but found herself back in the shelter at ten years of age. She spent two years living in a cage at Caroline until Traude’s visit. That’s how she came to Chestertown.
Though some seniors are concerned about moving around the house with a pet underfoot, Traude was unfazed by that. “I watch where I walk all the time, pet or no pet.”
Many seniors have concerns about adoption fees, but many shelters lower or waive adoption fees for seniors. For Mittens, no money changed hands.
Some people fear that a pet will outlive them. Of course, that is a genuine concern. But, overwhelmingly, family members assume the caretaking responsibilities for the pet. And there are a myriad of breed specific rescue organizations and privately run shelters which step in if the need is there. No one goes homeless.
This is a story with a happy ending. And there can be so many more like it. Pets bring so much joy to their owners. There is unconditional love between an animal and his master. Pets give the day structure. They are beings to nourish and nurture. They make us smile.
Consider adopting a senior pet.
Note from Karen Wright: Homeports can provide a list of people in your community who pet sit or walk dogs if the need arises. Homeports can arrange a visit to the Humane Society of Kent County for anyone interested. Please call Karen Wright for online pet adoption websites.