ElderDog: Keeping Furry Friends at Home Longer

by Jamila Douhaibi | Photo by Tanya Murchie – 

ElderDog Canada is a non-profit, volunteer-run organization that began in 2009. Their mission “is to honour and preserve the animal-human bond through care, companionship, research, and education,” which they do primarily through volunteer dog-walking and other pet services. Michelle Clement, the Communication Coordinator helping to establish a local chapter (PAWD) from Saanich to Sidney, says that the organization is a “hidden gem” in communities across the country.

The Victoria Chapter was growing rapidly, so a leadership and volunteer group is being put together for the Peninsula. Michelle started with the organization in August, and aside from her coordinator role, she also walks two schnauzers. She says that clients have a variety of circumstances for needing the service, such as surgeries, sickness, or mobility issues, and the organization’s “whole goal is to keep owners with pets as long as possible.”
Carol Jenkins, owner of the two dogs that Michelle walks (pictured at left), can’t say enough about the positive experience she’s had with ElderDog. A client since July of 2023, Carol signed up for the service after she broke her wrist and wasn’t able to hold her dog’s leashes. Currently her dogs – Fez (eight) and Franny (11) – get walked four days a week by Michelle and other volunteers. When asked about the volunteers, Carol says that they are excellent, very accommodating, and “often show up with dog biscuits even though they don’t have to.” Going above and beyond is why Carol says “I sing their praises to everyone.” She has been referring friends to ElderDog since she joined, and says that even as her wrist heals, she is certain her dogs will be lovingly walked by the volunteers of the organization for a long time to come.

Michelle says that ElderDog is a “happy place to be a volunteer” and a positive situation for everyone involved. Clients know their pets are getting exercise, and volunteers are too. One of Michelle’s highlights has been getting to know a different neighbourhood intimately with a “four-legged furry one,” and she has also met more people in the community. A neighbour that also has a schnauzer sometimes walks with her, and she can see that the benefits reach beyond her role, as there are “so many wins on so many levels.”

There is “no shortage of community members that need help,” and several different volunteer opportunities are listed on the website, including: assisting seniors with exercising their dogs, delivering or picking up dog food from the store, light grooming, transportation to and from the vet or groomer, and temporary care during hospitalization. The local ElderDog chapters are well run through an app, with weekly updates for volunteers needed, along with regular communication. Walkers go through a proper training process, including shadowing trained walkers and keeping dogs on leash at all times.

Volunteers are often recent retirees, many who either own dogs themselves or are just dog lovers looking to spend more time outside. Michelle says there’s an almost immediate connection with dogs, as they quickly associate volunteers’ arrival with walk time. The dogs “are excited to see you and the owners are super grateful,” says Michelle. Though people can find the service through the ElderDog website, social media groups or flyers at the library, it’s word of mouth – from people using the service like Carol – that is the biggest source of connection to the organization.

As the new Saanich to Sidney PAWD is being established, more volunteers will be needed as more furry friends are always looking for people to walk them. With happy pet lovers walking pups, and dog owners knowing their dogs are getting outside, as Michelle says, it’s a win-win situation.

To connect with the Saanich to Sidney PAWD email saanichtosidneycc@elderdog.ca.

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