Malamute Poppy is in a bit of a precarious situation. Healing from surgery, and the apple of her owner’s eye, she requires three small walks a day, plus massages and physiotherapy.
Normally it would be manageable, but at the moment Linda Stewart isn’t physically in a position to take those walks with her beloved companion.
Enter ElderDog Victoria, part of a national charitable organization that works to serve seniors and their pets. The local chapter is dubbed the Victoria Pawd.
The program is designed to help dog owners with any task if the unpredictable means someone needs support from one week or for more desperate situations such as re-homing.
It’s clear Poppy adores the volunteers who come to walk her, Stewart said. “She’s all over them, just wiggle, wiggle and so happy to see them.”
Volunteer Margot Inches of Oak Bay, is among the Pawd members who walk Poppy, and the caring is clearly mutual as the two traipse around Horner Park in Saanich.
The program started three years ago with five dogs. Now they support 30, offering volunteers a wide range of options – long walks, short walks, big dogs, little dogs – from Greater Victoria and as far afield as Chemainus.
Inches saw the need even before the organization formed, just looking at the seniors in her community.
“I love animals and I love dogs and I really like supporting our community, especially elderly folks. A lot of people face changing situations as they get older and their dogs or their pets are a big concern.”
Some families need support picking up supplies or taking a pet to the vet or even long-term fostering should the case of changing living situations arise.
“For a lot of people, especially older people, a dog is a really important part of their lifestyle. It’s their exercise, their companion, their mental stability. You take that away from them and that’s very, very traumatic,” Inches said.
Poppy is that companion for her owner.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” Stewart said. “If I didn’t have (ElderDog Victoria) I don’t know what I would do.”
She finds the volunteers sweet, kind and funny as they also visit with her during pick up and drop off.
ElderDog Victoria Pawd hopes to build on its volunteer base so organizers can build a team around each situation and provide any support needed. No experience is necessary, though it’s helpful if you like dogs, Inches said with a chuckle. A variety of commitments are available.
Anyone interested in learning more about the organization can visit elderdog.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The ElderDog group also encourages prospective volunteers to join one of the regular monthly Pawd walks – on the 15th of every month in new locations throughout Greater Victoria. Humans and dogs are both welcome to attend.