By Debra Downey
METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
A dog lover all her life, Peggy Beck is well aware of the caring and comforting bond that can develop between animal and human.
For 13 years, she experienced life with her best buddy, Pal. Peggy adopted the puppy when he was just six weeks old. She was living in the Bahamas when she visited an animal shelter, peeked into one of the cages, saw “four little furry brown things” and a darker coloured dog. The black puppy took an immediate interest in Peggy.
“They let him out and he came right over to me,” said Peggy. “I had already made up my mind that I was going to get a dog when I came back home, but Pal adopted me.”
Peggy’s new little friend eventually made his way north in a crate on an Air Canada flight. She and the dog spent many wonderful years together before Peggy said farewell to her favourite four-legged companion on May 5, 2011.
While Pal was alive, Peggy became acquainted with staff at the Ancaster Animal Hospital, and while at the veterinarian’s recently, she saw a newspaper article on ElderDog Canada. The national, non-profit organization is dedicated to honouring and preserving the important connection between aging people and aging dogs.
The front-page story in the Ontario-based newspaper Dogs, Dogs, Dogs told a compelling story about a 90-year-old woman who was mourning the loss of her canine companion. The woman wondered where she might find another dog, an older dog, so the pair could age together. Another elderly person had been hospitalized and had no choice but to leave her two beloved dogs in a boarding kennel. The stress of worrying about the dogs was interfering with her recovery.
The seniors’ situations immediately tugged at Peggy’s heart strings. Was there an ElderDog chapter in the Hamilton area? Were there people in need of ElderDog services?
Intending to volunteer with the organization, Peggy dialed the newspaper’s telephone number. She talked to the author of the article and was disappointed to learn the closest ElderDog chapter was in Nova Scotia.
But Peggy feels there just might be a need for an ElderDog group in Hamilton.
“I see a lot of older people walking dogs and know how much their companion dogs mean to them,” she said. “…when you get to be a certain age, you think about what happens to your pets because they are such great companions.”
Some of the services offered by ElderDog Canada include helping seniors with daily dog-care activities like exercise, hygiene and trips to the vet or pet store. Volunteers also facilitate foster care and adoption of older dogs, provide education and outreach, and offer dog bereavement support and commemoration programs.
“I hope to make people aware of ElderDog and see if there is interest in the community about forming a chapter,” said Peggy.
Photo by Debra Downey
Peggy Beck is shown with a pastel drawing by Joan Souter-Scrivener of her dear friend, Pal.