Now more than ever dogs could be one of the answers to re-booting our crazy world; and in particular provide invaluable companionship and support for the elderly and the vulnerable who may have struggled over the last year or so and are now confronted with life after covid.
Dogs get my vote as the general cure-all these days as I appear to have turned in to one of those crazy dog owners. You know the ones. Totally indulgent of their princess; she who shadows me everywhere I go, for whom nothing is too much trouble. Who can sleep on the sofa, in the middle of the bed, infact wherever she likes.
I had my first puppy for approximately 72 hours before returning her to the breeder citing irreconcilable differences. I post-rationalised this blip in achieving my perfect life – not the right time, not the right house, not the right lifestyle etc.
At the time I was devastated at my apparent failure to keep her, but couldn’t quite understand the reason for my angst. It was only a puppy right?
Scroll forwards a decade and here I am with apparently the right house and lifestyle, and Iris, a 2 year old mini schnauzer.
She has her own twitter and insta accounts. Natch. She has her own friends with whom I organise walks; she has 3 baskets in various places around the house; an executive and often a starring role in my business, with unfettered access to any and every zoom call I make, and a weekend suitcase bigger than mine.
What the actual woof?
From way before Lassie came home, dogs have been man’s best friend. And so much more than that. Guide dogs, therapy dogs, pat-a-dogs in hospitals and care homes. Sniffer dogs now sniffing out covid, as well as their well honed noses for drugs. Etc.
There has been much talk about lockdown puppies, along with the alarming increase in desperate social posts about missing/stolen pooches. During lockdown#1 the best bit of those dark grim days was taking Iris for a walk. Time away from the screen, time away from the dreadful news, time out and about (in a limited fashion). In his last weeks Iris -with that incredible doggy instinct – kept my Dad company, snoozing on his bed with him, quietly snuggling in and occasionally jumping on his chest for a proper old smooch.
The great thing now – which might have been a better solution for me a decade ago – is you don’t even have to buy or own one to enjoy the benefits of having one in your or your parents life.
The Cinnamon Trust is a charity supporting people “in their last years and their much loved, much needed companion animals”. They have 17,000 volunteers who enable owners to keep their pets at home by providing dog walking and general support, as well as fostering pets when owners need to go into hospital for example.
They will take on the lifetime care of a bereaved pet with their re-homing service. And in a genius move they also have a register of pet friendly care homes and retirement communities. So – perhaps become a volunteer for them? Or re-home a pet; for elderly parents and relatives The Cinnamon Trust might be a wonderful solution to any concerns about being able to look after a dog full-time themselves.
Borrowmydoggy.com is another favourite, providing those without a dog the opportunity to be a dog walker or a dog sitter. It’s a local matching service for walks, weekends or holidays.
Of course there are many re-homing charities and organisations, such as The Mayhew Trust or The Dogs Trust. If your parents already own a dog and need a bit more help with exercise etc., then rover.com might be for them – another local matching service.
Dogs – (other pets/brands available) – should really be available on prescription. Let’s hope BoJo – encouraged by his four-legged friend Dilyn – will make it a priority, and even take Mrs. Johnson’s approach to rent -a – dress as the way forward for dogs.
Annabel James is founder of AgeSpace.org. Her choice of pet is her own.