Downsizing and Old Love Letters
Happy Thanksgiving 2017, Everyone

Elders and Dog Sharing

Day in and day out, there is so much bad news, I decided that in keeping with the holiday tomorrow, we should have a week of light news and commentary. God knows such things as sexual misconduct, tax reform, net neutrality and whatever else comes up will need our full attention next week.

Meanwhile, in a recent story in 1843 Magazine, Edward McBride discusses dog sharing in London. Mostly, he is talking about working people whose dogs get lonely during the day:

”For those whose schedules make it hard to pay their dog enough attention, outfits like BorrowMyDoggy are a godsend.

“They match owners, who need someone to stop Fido getting so bored he chews the skirting boards and pees on the sofa, with people who volunteer to walk or dogsit lonely pooches because they want the fun of having a dog to play with occasionally without the hassle and expense of owning one full-time.”

Personally, I think such people have no business having a pet but let's go with premise for the sake of this story.

It's more than just dog walking, it's an actual visit and the idea has spread to Canada (Part-time Pooch) and Australia (Dogshare). It's that name “Dogshare” that got me thinking about pets (well, dogs in particular) and old people.

I'm perfectly happy with my cat Ollie, I'm home most of the time so he doesn't need a drop-by friend and it is in the nature of most cats that they are slow to warm up to new people so I'm applying my idea to dogs.

Ollie is 13 now. My previous cat lived to be nearly 20, but what if Ollie doesn't and what if I would like a new pet when he is gone? It is widely understood that pets and people are good for one another and that dogs are amenable to more than one person at a time:

"Most of the world’s dogs [says Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches canine psychology at Columbia University in New York], are strays living in the developing world.

"Their natural habitat, as it were, is the proximity of humans, but they do not have a specific owner. Instead, they attach themselves temporarily to whoever is nice to them.

"There is good evidence that dogs form genuine attachments to humans, and can become depressed when these bonds of affection are sundered. But they need not be exclusive. As Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist who helped to train the queen’s corgis, puts it, “'You can overplay the idea of loyalty to the last gasp.'”

Most people want kittens or puppies but there are services that pair up elder people with elder pets. A good idea. But do I really want to face outliving another pet, if it comes to that?

So taking a page from Part-time Pooch and Dogshare, what about a real shared ownership between an elder and a younger person? The dog could live at each person's house for a week at a time, then switch.

It should start when the dog is a puppy, of course, so that having two homes feels normal to him or her. Each person can enjoy the pet in a week on/week off relationship, share expenses, work out vacation time with one another and when the older person dies, there is no worry that the dog won't have a home.

Give it some thought and let us know what you think.

Comments

My cat is about 18 years old. It is likely that I will live longer than he will. My hesitation in getting a different pet after he is gone is that the pet will outlive me. Then what? I do not like the thought of a beloved (and they are) animal being put in a shelter and possibly put down (think suttee). Perhaps I will provide a foster home for cats waiting for their forever homes.

I love the idea! My husband and I lost our old bulldog two years ago and hesitate to get another dog because traveling is so much easier without one. But we often talk about how nice it would be to have one around ! Great solution! This time we would want a mutt, though!

Doggie day care is a big and booming business around here. I know that some dog walkers do well in large cities. Sharing is a good idea for those who cannot afford these options or who would like to know that their pet would automatically have a good home if something happened.
When I visit friends who have dogs I enjoy taking the dogs out for a good run, but that is about as much dog interaction as I care to have personally. The dogs remember and are glad to see me. Our cat, on the other hand, wouldn't even share himself between me and my husband. He was 100% my husbands cat (even though I rescued him and brought him home). If my husband was away, the cat could barely modify his disdainful attitude long enough for me to feed him. SO sharing might work for dogs, not so much for cats.

Fostering, that's the ticket! When our last dog died, we decided no more dogs for us. Then we realized how quiet the house was without one and opted to foster for the local humane society. We were able to stipulate adult/senior dogs, size, etc., and it is wonderful to have a dog for a short time before it finds its 'furever' home, then be dogless again for a while. It's not that different from borrowing a dog, except in the time commitment, but you get to bond with a beast at least temporarily, and you're helping out a valuable organization. More important, you're helping to save the life of a dog that might otherwise be euthanized in a crowded animal shelter.

I had a neighbor who was very attached to her dog. I am allergic to dogs but still like them. She would bring her dog on visits and Rocky and I would rough house and play outside where the allergies didn’t bother me. It got so that when she went on walks Rocky would stop at one corner a block away to see which direction they were going. When she said let’s go see Denny then he was off like a shot. He would veer off into my yard and come find me. We’d play until his owner finally got died a couple of years ago. He is still missed.

Olga beat me to it. Doggie Daycare is big business where I live too. There are at least four facilities within five miles from where I live and they are all over the city. I drop my dog off ever so often just so he's gets some play time in with other dogs. Doggie Daycare is different than boarding kennels. Most of the dogs who go there are dropped off in the morning by working people and picked up after work. The dogs come home happy and look forward to going. So I disagree with you about people shouldn't have a dog if they need places like Doggie Daycare and BorrowMyDoggy to help supplement their care. I know other dog owners who have found individuals to dog-sit while they are at work. A dog is like having a child in the house and you wouldn't tell a parent if they can't spend all their time with a child they shoudn't have one.

Brilliant. Win-win-win. I'm sharing the idea starting now.

I am sure I will outlive the two cats I now have. I've always had pet companions and want to continue, but can't bear the thought of them out-living me and imposing that burden on my children. So, I've decided I would foster cats and "specialize" in seniors who may be "hard to place" as were my two adopted daughters. If the fostered senior out-lives me, the cat rescue will care for them or find them another home. If they are placed, well, great, onto meeting and caring for another.

Plenty of people who love dogs are living in places where they can't have one. Apartments, for example. And me, for example. Lived in apartments several times in my life, during transitional periods, etc., and really missed having the dog I would otherwise have had.

My dog is 9 and my cat is 14. I expect to outlive them both and dread enduring their losses. I may get another cat, but no dog. I might have moved to a condo or patio home by now if not for the dog needing a yard.

I've considered fostering dogs, but am afraid I'd become so attached that letting them go would be too painful.

My son and his family would probably keep any pet that outlives me. If they couldn't, they would be diligent in finding a good home. We are all hopelessly in love with our pets.

I think dog sharing is a wonderful idea, but I also like the idea of dog borrowing. That would be very suitable for dog lovers who perhaps live in pet restricted buildings have a doggie fix.
Whether sharing would apply to cats is another thing entirely. We think that our Kai is very particular about where he lives and with whom. But that may vary from cat to cat. 😻

I should have previewed my previous comment ;). But you get the idea.

Oddly enough I did share my bischon, Breezy. I got her for company when my first husband died suddenly. I was still working and took care of her at noon. After awhile, my Dad said, "get her house trained" and maybe we'll take her for a week here and there. Well that week turned into 6 months with me and 6 months with my folks lol they adored her, was great company, the hit of their neighborhood on walks. She brought great pleasure to them, gave them another creature to care for and I believe contributed to their lives greatly. She was fully trained easy to manage and lived 15 years. I moved on to the big guys, golden retrievers and had four luv tubs, losing my last 2 yrs ago. I've been debating getting another, but I'm leaning towards no. I think whatever works for folks..sharing etc. who am I to question lol

Sharing dogs and cats is great, but maybe some elder sharing would be better. Just a thought.

I like the premise. We didn't get another dog after our last one died even though I'd still like one. We worry about what would become of him/her if we died first. We have no family nor close enough friends that would take one in. Of course our preference for St. Bernards doesn't help ; )

Good idea! If divorced couples can "share" their children and work out those difficulties, why not do the same with animals?

Beautiful idea, Ronni.

I walked a neighbour's JR terrier for a while- owners were both working.

Wife has retired, so we often walk the dog together.

Bruce mentioned elder sharing. There was a Vermont Public Radio (signal is strong, reaches Montreal, love that station) piece this morning about the isolation of many seniors during winter -seniors appreciate having a friendly visit or invite for a meal, etc.

I was listening in my car.

Ten minutes later I bumped into E at the mall.

E said her husband has dementia and she is caring for him at home.

I saw the strain on her face, and even though they are a solid couple, this must be a difficult time for both of them.

I was shocked to see her husband sitting in the food court.

E said even if I went to say hello, he wouldn't know me.

Her husband was in our retired teacher cycling group for years.

Now he's using an electric cart. E brings him to the mall where they meet the retired teacher mall walkers. They hang their heavy coats at the back of a coffee shop, and walk the mall.

E's husband drives along in his cart.

The group watches over him.

As long as they're there, he'll be there.


A younger/elder dog sharing idea would be to have the dog spend the week with the elders and the weekend with the younger. That way the dog gets daily companionship seven days a week.

I love both dogs and cats and have had pets my entire adult life. When my last dog died at 14 and my last cat died at 17, I was heartbroken. But I rediscovered the freedom of travel. I couldn’t have a pet now with my lifestyle, but I do miss having a pet. Your idea seems like a solution. I don’t know about sharing an animal 50/50–I believe in well behaved animals and what if your idea of a well behaved pet is not the other person’s? (No, my dog did not sleep in our bed nor beg at the table , and my cat would not think of jumping on the counter). For me. “visit the pet while the full time owner is working” is a grand idea. That truly is a win win for all—pet included. I get the fun of playing with a dog (and exercise) without the expense or the time commitment.

By the way, I cat sit occasionally and even though it may be a year in between visits, she is always glad to see me and we have a great time playing with toys and sharing affection.

What a wonderful idea!

I volunteered to take in two senior cats some years ago when a friend died, and to my surprise, they came with an inheritance. I would have taken them anyhow, but that was a very nice gesture, and frankly helpful. They lived happy senior lives until, when it was time, each went to his/her 'cat heaven in the sky'.

So, when I broke down and adopted another cat, this one 5 years old and very likely to survive me, I have also made that a stipulation in the event this lovable companion is still here when I'm not.

Just one more way to find solutions in our elderhood and to help our companions.

I dearly loved the story told by Doctafil. Thank you for that post.

I would have gotten a dog after my husband died, but wanted the freedom of spontaneously going away, to local or distant locations without needing to board (costly) and certainly not to take the dog with me — not a fan of pets being drug everywhere by their owners, so prefer they leave them at home if coming to visit me. Also, thought it unkind to pet I owned that would likely outlive me — then what happens to pet? I had a young dog, King, that was to be mine I loved dearly when a teen, then had to give him up — heart-breaking for me and him I discovered later, that I wrote about on my blog. Still feel that pain.

In my work, I saw numerous older women, especially, who had to permanently move to level of care where they couldn’t have their pets, so was sad for them with concern for their pets welfare. Pets, especially dogs, require a lot of care and haven’t wanted that obligation, especially so on those occasions I’ve been ill and could barely manage to care for myself, or if suddenly had to go to ER. Without family near have no one who could take care of dog for me.

I’ve joked with others about starting a business — Rent-a-Dog for people like me — a dog I could have a few days that I could return at any time if something came up — wouldn’t want to get too attached. Wouldn’t like an arrangement coordinating with another person for definite turn-taking obligation to keep pet for a week, etc. as you describe.

One day, I did notice neighbors dog got out and I finally took it in cause could see it was waundering off. Had him the whole day, and I quickly became his best friend. He fell asleep on my lap — had prickly hair and ultimately I had a bit of skin reaction though he was sweet and loving. Think neighbors would have welcomed him visiting me more as they both work during day, but I didn’t broach the topic, or could have been good arrangement.

I've had cats almost my entire life and really can't imagine not having them. My husband and I currently have 3 senior rescue kitties--2 in the 16-17 Y/O range and 1 who's 12. If we die before they do, which is becoming more of a possibility as we're both in our 80s, they are enrolled in a pet guardian program. (No one in our family is in a position to care for them.) The program is operated by a well-regarded shelter/rehoming agency; our kitties would be rehomed or fostered in their final years. There is a donation involved.

If 1 or more of our cats predecease us, we've already considered the question of whether it would be fair to adopt another senior cat. As long as we're physically able to provide care, we lean towards adopting an older and/or special needs cat now languishing in a shelter--perhaps one who has been surrendered by an older former owner. However, perhaps fostering or providing hospice care to a cat near the end of life would be a better option for the cat.

There are as many options to this idea as you can think of. If you want an animal in your life part-time, just start telling people and an opportunity will pop up. Older pets sleep 16+ hours a day so living with a working person can be a good fit.

Some of the specific breed rescues will also pay an animal's expenses if you are willing to foster on a permanent basis until the animal dies. It's not unusual for people to relinquish their older pets once the medical bills appear and finding a home for a 11-14 year old dog is very, very difficult. That route takes some emotional grit, but an old dog will form an attachment just as a younger dog will, and they tend to be non-demanding and very, very sweet.

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