Here in America, pets are very much a part of our lives. We have specialty stores for them which feature bedding, clothing, food, grooming service and an endless array of products. They even have their own on-line pharmacy. We have had pet cemeteries for quite some time, but now we can add pet insurance and frequent flyer miles.
That’s right; our furry friends have finally been acknowledged as part of our family. And well they should be. After all, who was there when you needed companionship but didn’t feel like talking? Who shows you unconditional love?
Experts tell us that it’s emotionally healthy to own a pet, especially if you are a senior living alone. Some hospitals and nursing homes work with an organization that brings pets to visit bed-ridden patients. Doctors report that the animals are a benefit to those who are ailing or confined. The best known group that fills that need is “Therapy Dogs.” These special animals are trained to be of comfort to our older citizens, to bring them a measure of happiness, if only for a brief period.
It is a proven fact that seniors who have one or more pets live longer, better lives. While there is a lot to be said for goldfish and outdoor bird feeders, they can’t compare to having a pet that will lick your hand or wag its tail in loving gratitude.
Many seniors are retired and therefore make perfect pet owners because they are at home much of the time.
If you are thinking of getting a pet, here are a few things you might want to consider:
A puppy or kitten may not be the best choice for a senior, because the very young animals require more attention and training than an older one. This suggestion also applies to the first-time pet owner. A mature dog or cat that is already housebroken and has received all the necessary vaccinations can easily be found at one of the pet rescue centers, and often works out the best for seniors. The toughest part is deciding whether to select a dog or cat.
One nice feature about “man’s best friend” is that they are not judgmental. Also, dogs are loving, loyal and protective. Some have even been known to save an owner’s life. On the negative side, dogs must have access to an outside area and the pet owner should take Fido out for a daily walk.
I find that cats are an easy-care pet. Although they can be independent and somewhat demanding, they also use a litter box and therefore don’t need to be walked outside. If left alone in the house with plenty of food and water, a cat will be just fine for a couple of days. Also, cats are fun to watch when they play with toys or jump up into their “cat condos.” Our orange tabby, Rusty, is an expert at this feat. If they ever have Kitty Olympics I plan to enter him; he’s sure to win.
They say that dogs have a “master”, but cats have “staff.”
Nevada resident Carolyn Schneider is author of the book, “Bing: On the Road to Elko”, about her uncle, Bing Crosby. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org