What Do Scientists and Researchers Say About the Elderly and Pets . . .
Allow me to introduce you to Harley.
Harley is a dog we adopted from the animal shelter 4 years ago, and is a Brussels Griffon. He was surrendered, to the shelter, with his "real dog" papers. We're not into "real dogs" nor their papers, but we love this little guy to pieces. He is the smallest and the youngest of our 3 dogs. He's also 10lbs over weight.
FYI: All 3 of our dogs are overweight. Dr. Jon, our veterinarian, scolds us and makes us buy special diet food for them, and then we have to spend even more money on this special diet food because 2 of the dogs are extra large seniors and Harley is a small dog and not a senior.
What does any of this have to do with mom?
A lot. A. Lot.
First I have to give you the background on how our dogs came into our lives: We had two dogs, when we went searching for a smaller dog. Bear, is 110lbs and a NewFundie mix. He's pure black, gorgeous, 10 years old. Bear was our first dog and we adopted him from the Humane Society when he was 10 weeks old--times flies. About 6 months later we wanted to get a second dog to keep Bear company while we were at work all day, so we began looking at the shelters and one Saturday morning we happened upon Lucy. We both knew at the exact moment we saw her that she was our dog. Lucy is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Coon Hound mix and 90lbs of active, loud, fun. She likes nothing better than to boss all of us around, even though I keep reminding her I am the Alpha. Phil loves his huge dogs, as he is a big man at 6'6 and he wants a lot of dog to walk around with. I, on the other hand, wanted a small dog I could cuddle with (to which my husband likes to remind me that both Bear and Lucy like to sit in his lap at the same time.) We began our search for a small dog and again, just like with Lucy,we knew the moment we saw him that he was our new baby. We took him out to the visiting area and brought Bear and Lucy in to meet him, to check on how they react to each other, and they immediately sniffed and ran, and all piled into my husbands lap at the same time.
When we brought Harley home 4 years ago, mom was surprised to see we had another dog. Honestly, we never even considered mom's reaction to a new dog. She got along fine with the two we had, and she liked Danny, Zak's dog who she saw frequently. It wasn't long before we began to notice things. Things? Things like mom referring to Harley as her little doggie. Things like mom letting Harley sit on her lap and nap all afternoon. Things like mom beginning to feed Harley from her plate and soon after beginning to feed all 3 dogs from her plate.
As time went on, mom became completely attached to Harley. When we'd have nice weather and go to the dog park where mom always held onto Harley's leash and would get upset when we'd explain we were at the dog park and he could run free of the leash. She did not like that idea at all as she was fearful of him getting lost. When mom would talk to my sisters over the phone she would tell them all about Harley and how he keeps her company and sleeps in her lap. Soon we were referring to Harley as her little dog too.
Mom absolutely loves Harley. He is her companion. Her BFF, and she is his.
When mom first went to the hospital we could tell immediately that all the dogs were a bit upset, and they knew grandma was missing, and they didn't like that. But Harley seemed more than a bit upset, he really seemed to be suffering the loss of his grandma. Phil would hold him in his lap and talk to him about grandma and assure him she was going to be better soon. I know many think our bonding with our dogs this way is crazy, but we love them and they are our fur children (This may be an empty-nester phenom.)
When mom was ready to be moved from the hospital to the care center, we were pleased to learn we could bring pets in to visit. Not only that, but they have a group that comes in once a week with dogs to visit the patients in the facility. We immediately got all the shot records, from our vet, and made plans to take Harley over to see his grandma. We had a dog trainer that swore dogs didn't and couldn't have facial expressions--we never agreed with that because our dogs do have facial expressions. I wish I had a picture of Harley's face when we walked into mom's room and he saw her. Talk about a happy little doggie.
Mom knew who he was, and this in itself tells me so much about her connection to her dog. She was thrilled to see him and wanted to go out and show him off. We got mom into her wheelchair and began to walk the hallways, when she grabbed the leash from me telling me she could hold his leash. We stopped as we passed patients, staff, and other family members wanting to pet him and ask about him. Mom was so proud to tell everyone his name was Harley and he was her dog, and he came to visit her.
When we got back to her room she was ready for a nap. We got her into her bed and Harley jumped up to lay with her, and soon he was snoring. Mom commented that he felt like he's lost some weight. Phil and I looked at each other and laughed. Yes, Harley, and the other 2, have all lost weight now that mom isn't there to feed them all day long.
I don't know what scientists and researchers have to say about the elderly and pets. I can only speak from what I do know with my mom and Harley. Adopting Harley, into our family, was the best thing we did for mom. The bond she has with him is strong, and it's a healthy bond for her to have. Harley gives mom the opportunity to have a friend in her lap all day long and gives her the opportunity to care deeply about him. They are simply priceless together. Harley has an unconditional love for grandma and this is so good for mom to feel. It keeps her feeling, and this is a good thing.
We have been taking Harley in the care center to visit mom every Saturday. While mom doesn't recognize what day we bring him to visit, she does remember that we have brought him in and continually asks if we'll bring Harley back sometime. Every Saturday it's a surprise for her when we walk in with her beloved little doggie.
What do scientists and researchers say about the elderly and pets . . .
More from living