Does having a dog in the city make you healthier? Is there a benefit to having a dog at any age? This week we shared the news in Virginia about a Seniors for Seniors program, at the Prince William County animal shelter. Anyone over 60 can adopt dogs or cats over 5 for free. It is a great idea, and not only helps older dogs and cats get adopted, but provides an often lonely segment of our population with a much needed companion.
Dogs provide friendship and happiness
When you think of a big city, you see traffic, lots of people on sidewalks and generally, a lot of hustle and bustle. It is hard to imagine anyone being lonely if they lived in a city. You're surrounded by people, how can you be lonely?! Well, you can, especially if you are older and have a limited income that prevents you from going out or joining community classes that cost money. Having a companion animal could make all the difference in your health, both physical and mental.
One of the reasons I joined the board of Pets Are Wonderful Support is because of their work to keep the vulnerable members of our community with their dear companion animals. They provide valuable services that make all the difference. I believe an important way to address a larger national issue, such as the quality of life for our senior citizens, is by starting with helping those in our own community. Providing charitable veterinary services and pet care is an important way we care for animals, and our low income seniors.
Another San Francisco organization that recognizes the need to support the companion animals of the most vulnerable in our community is the SF/SPCA. Since the 1980's they have had the Pet-A-Care Senior Discount Program. Yep, they saw the power of the human-animal bond between seniors and their pets, and years ago, created a way to support it through discounted veterinary services.
Dogs provide comfort, protection and companionship
A huge benefit to having a dog is companionship and protection. The pleasure and affection experienced daily is a natural antidote to loneliness and depression, especially in a city. The relationship provides an important social interaction, with the dog encouraging only positive emotions.
I have read research showing respondents felt that the benefits of having a dog included: their dog was a source of encouragement when they were feeling upset; walking their dog encouraged conversations with other people; and having a dog helped with their relationship with their neighbors.
In my own life with my dog Cleo, I have seen first hand the truth to this research. Not only has she made me feel better countless times, but walking Cleo has produced many encounters with strangers and neighbors that I wouldn't have had otherwise. We have also heard from elderly friends of ours, wonderful and poignant stories, of what they gained from spending time with her.
I'm thankful for having a dog in my life. Our relationship is mutually beneficial for sure. Seeing programs like the one in Virginia, and here in San Francisco that focus on promoting the benefit of animal companionship gives me hope that people care about our senior citizens and their quality of life.
I'm hopeful that more communities across the country will see that dogs, and cats, add to the quality of life, and support programs and nonprofits like these.
For more information and ways you can support these groups:
Visit the Pets Are Wonderful Support PAWS website
Become a PAWS Fan on Facebook
Visit the San Francisco SPCA website
What would you say is the main benefit of having a dog? Do you support a program like Seniors for Seniors, or a nonprofit like Pets Are Wonderful Support in your community? Share your experiences in the comments below.