ElderDog Canada, a national charitable organization dedicated to supporting ageing people and ageing dogs, is gearing up to launch a local chapter (“Pawd”) in Peterborough this June.
The Pawd will support local elders in caring for their canine companions through services like dog walking, taking dogs to appointments, and helping to buy pet supplies. ElderDog also provides care for dogs whose lives are disrupted by their owners’ illness, relocation, or death.
The goal of ElderDog is to provide the supports to keep elders and their dogs together. Where this is impossible, they also foster and rehome dogs while ensuring the animals are always taken care of in a loving home. ElderDog conducts fostering and rehoming processes while following all vet fostering and rehoming procedures and guidelines — never releasing the dog to a shelter or another rescue.
“It’s very important to have seniors know their dog will be taken care of when they can no longer do it themselves,” says Peterborough ElderDog Pawd leader Catherine Ducharme. “Whether it is a senior with an older dog or a senior with a younger dog, the primary focus is on seniors keeping their companion animal at home with them as long as possible.”
Ducharme became interested in bringing ElderDog to Peterborough after hearing about the organization through a friend involved in a Nova Scotia Pawd. According to Ducharme, after hearing about the organization, she realized the supports they offer is needed within her community.
“I had observed in the neighbourhood where I live there are a lot of seniors who have dogs,” Ducharme explains. “I have a dog and I am a young senior. By the time my dog is 15 years old, I will be well into my eighties, and I’m thinking ‘What will happen to my dog if my husband and I aren’t around?’ It put it into perspective for me because you cannot just give them (your pets) to a shelter.”
“Ardra Cole, the founder and chair of ElderDog, actually conceived the idea when she lived in Garden Hill, Ontario (near Campbellcroft),” Ducharme adds. “She was hoping to have one here, but she moved to Nova Scotia about 10 years ago and founded it there. She’s delighted we’re finally doing it here in Peterborough.”
To launch the Peterborough ElderDog Pawd in June, Ducharme needs to find volunteers for local coordinator positions, a task made more difficult due to Ontario’s current stay-at-home order.
While some of the coordinator positions have already been filled — secretary, communications, events and outreach, in-home dog support, and treasurer — the local Pawd still needs a fundraising coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and rehoming coordinator.
“The rehoming position is a big position because they’re responsible for finding foster homes and rehoming dogs following guidelines, and communicating with vets and other rescues,” says Ducharme. “The ideal volunteer for that position would be someone who has some experience with that.”
Those interested in applying for one of the coordinator positions can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Volunteers will be required to fill out an application and complete a police records check.
“If this touches your heart, then we would love to hear from you,” Ducharme says.
Once the board of executives has been established, Ducharme says they will be seeking volunteers to provide in-home support services. These volunteers will help directly with the seniors and their animals through duties such as taking dogs to the vet, buying and delivering dog food, checking up on seniors and their dogs, and taking dogs for walks.
Those interested in volunteering in this way should keep an eye on the Find a Pawd Close To You page on ElderDog’s national website, where contact information will appear once the Peterborough Pawd is fully established.
You can also support ElderDog by making a donation or purchasing merchandise on the organization’s national website at www.elderdog.ca.
A large portion of the funds raised by ElderDog is used for providing medical care for senior dogs who have to be rehomed or fostered due to a senior’s inability to keep their companion at home. According to Ducharme, ElderDog Canada provided about $100,000 worth of canine medical care across the country in 2020.
At the ElderDog headquarters in Nova Scotia, the organization also holds an annual memorial service and butterfly release on the third Saturday of August to honour dogs who have passed away. This event normally draws attendees from around Canada. On the ElderDog website, you can also donate by purchasing butterflies to be released at the ceremony.
In 2018, the organization expanded the memorial service by opening “Place to Paws”, a chapel-like building located in a natural setting where people can pay tribute to canine companions who have passed on.
You can stay up-to-date and participate in ElderDog by purchasing a membership for $20. Memberships carry the right to participate in ElderDog members’ meetings and vote on items of ElderDog business. As a full member, you will receive information about upcoming meetings and various ways to participate in the organization.
“It’s a wonderful organization,” Ducharme notes. “They have thought about every eventuality that might come up with working with dogs and people.”
“Our focus is on seniors and their companion dogs and providing a service to them,” she adds. “If you have a companion animal, they’re like a family member. It helps a senior to be able to keep their animal at home. It’s hard to describe the feeling you have when you have a companion such as a dog.”
To learn more about the local ElderDog Pawd, you can email Ducharme at email@example.com. To learn more about ElderDog Canada, visit their website at www.elderdog.ca or follow them on Facebook.
This story has been updated to correct some information about the available local coordinator roles.