Shine at Home

A Path to Wellness – Making the Case for Seniors Having Pets
By Chris Treftlin

In a previous article I wrote about eliminating social isolation for seniors and in the last article listed the benefits of motion and exercise.  Well, this article solves both of those challenges, and much more.  Let’s call it a two-for-one. 

I want to tell a story about Kay, and what happened to her once she got a new puppy.   Kay is a friend and a senior.  We have known each other a long time, and she has been adopted as an honorary grandmother into my family.  We have been with Kay through the challenges of life, both hers and ours.  As a widower Kay has been able to maintain independence in her apartment with little concerns, however Kay is lonely.

What happened next is amazing.

Through some unforeseen circumstances, Kay got a little puppy.  She named him Micky.  A Yorkie – Shih Tzu cross, a Shorkie I think they call this breed.  A sweet bundle of fun is he.  Some looked with distain. What is a senior doing with a puppy anyway?  How can she care for a little puppy? Bad questions, for when you see how wonderful they have been for each other, well the distain should change to amazement.

Think about it.  Micky needs walks.  Micky needs to go outside to do his business.  Micky needs to play with his toys.  Micky needs to get treats for being so gosh-darn cute.  Micky needs his belly rubbed, just like every other self-respecting doggie does.   And after a long day Micky needs to lay beside Kay and have a nap.  Truth be told he has lots of naps.  So does Kay.

You see Micky has needs and Kay is ready to exceed those needs.

What does Kay get in return?  In a word; purpose.  Here is another word; companionship.  Here is another word; Unconditional love.  That’s two words.  Just seeing if you were paying attention.  This little ten-pound bundle of energy and fun does all of that and just wants the same in return.  And Kay is ready to be the pet owner Micky needs.  Kind of amazing that Micky does all of that.  Well, he does, I witnessed it.  I have seen Kay cut a visit short because she needs to get home to attend to Micky.

My wife tells a good story that demonstrates the unconditional love as demonstrated by man’s best friend.  As she puts it, if you put your husband and your dog in the trunk of the car and drove a hundred miles, when you stop and let them out, which one is going to be happy to see you? 

The physical and mental health benefits are clear, and here are some.  Added movement and physical activity.  In fact, the simple act of stroking your pet reduces the stress inducing hormone cortisol and increases the feel-good hormone oxytocin.  Think about that just the act of petting Micky helps Kay reduce stress and increase a feeling of wellness.

On the practical side, and it is worth stating that Micky is a small breed of dog.  Perfect for Kay.  No one is suggesting that Kay get a Great Dane, nor would that be appropriate.  This little guy, full of personality and love is just what the doctor ordered for my friend Kay, and it is a joy to see the wonderful impact Micky has had on Kay.  I am reminded of a prayer I read recently, and it struck a chord with me.  It goes like this:

“God, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.”

Kay has been given a gift, and those people that love her have been given one too.  Thank-you Micky!