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Who Saves Who

Posted on March 08 2016

The old proverb – “a dog is a man’s best friend” has been an enduring proof of a dog’s loyalty and commitment to their masters. This certainly has been proven time and again especially with recent news on dog owners being rescued or saved by their beloved canines.

One of these touching stories as reported by The New Daily involved Manfred Classen, an 85-year-old dog owner of an English Staffordshire Terrier named “Kiaria.” Kiaria led the ground search and rescue operations to find his owner. Mr. Classen has been reported missing Friday afternoon but had been lost for at least three days when he went for a walk on Wednesday. Kiaria found his owner’s son and then subsequently led the rescuers in the bush land to locate his master, who was found conscious and had suffered from minor facial injuries on Sunday afternoon. With the help of Kiaria, Mr. Classen was successfully rescued and treated at the Westmead Hospital.

There are more inspiring rescue stories like this reported on a global scale – dogs rescuing their elderly owners or being equally protective of human babies.

Dogs always become a part of the family. They will literally and figuratively grow old with you; and be protective of your property, family, life, and limb until the end of their canine years. Their presence in every family is said to be a blessing. This is especially true to elderly owners as dogs help them lead happier, healthier, and longer lives.

Here are the top 6 benefits of the elderly owning pet dogs:

  1. Reduce depression. Taking care of a dog has a lot of benefits for elderly owners who are at the prime of their lives. Some elderly develop a sense of worthlessness or loneliness. Many elderly have children that have grown up, and are now busy with their respective careers, or have moved out of the house (having their own families to take care of). Most people who are in their old age have fewer interactions or have less socialization with family, friends, and the community. The result is that it makes them feel alone, shoved aside, or abandoned – like nobody needs them anymore. Having pet dogs certainly changes that perspective. According to Christina Miller, a former home activities director for a nursing home in Southport, North Carolina, cited in Pet Insurance, that she noticed the positive behavioral change of patients when dogs from a local animal shelter did weekly visits to the nursing facility. They were observed to be more interactive with pet dogs and cats, thus becoming more excited and looking forward to their visits. They were more likely to get up; pet the dogs, feed them, and forget about their own problems for a while. This gave them a sense of purpose that something could be dependent on them for their needs, which helps them overcome their own insecurities and depression.
  2. Encourage regular activity or exercise. As pointed out in US News, having a pet dog encourages one to keep an active lifestyle. Pets help keep elderly people in sync with the world by helping them establish daily routines and make them stick to it. Knowing that there is a dog depending on them, gives them a sense of purpose. This creates more productive hours in the day to exercise without the elder even realizing it due to the enjoyment they are experiencing around their furry pets. This also helps alleviate body pain, such as arthritis, and provides the physical strengthening and conditioning that an aging body desperately needs.
  3. Sharpens the mind. In Aging Care, veterinarian Dr. Katharine Hillestad of Doctors Foster and Smith in Wisconsin stated that caring for a pet dog is stimulating not just emotionally but mentally. This can also help with memory retention. Elderly individuals with pet dogs have been observed to open up more when communicating with members of the family and those outside their network. They are also read or browse more online to look for information on their pet dogs or shop for products online for their pets.
  4. Relieves mental conditions. According to Bark Post, owning a dog can help the elderly focus in the present and not be worried with the future or the past events – that could have left them depressed and anxious. Dogs help elderly calm down and soothe those that are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer disease. Additionally, elderly people who have difficulty eating or sleeping are seen to develop increased appetite and are able to establish a regular sleep pattern with the presence of their dogs.
  5. Improves socialization and develop new interests. Taking care of a pet dog can help one rekindle relationships with family members because of a shared responsibility. This also encourages one to go out of the house on a regular basis to visit the veterinarian, walk the dog, etc. Walking the dog is also a good icebreaker for interaction with strangers who also own dogs. Having a dog also sparks new interests and activities like volunteering at nearby hospitals or training dogs as therapy dogs for nursing facilities. According to Paws, some elderly people also opt for senior dogs because these are said to be gentler and calmer in disposition and are well-trained. This helps the elderly think out of the box and be involved with other people rather than sulking up thinking of their own dilemmas. Dogs are great conversation-starters; many dog owners join groups that have similar interests in their community. Some even start their own groups.
  6. Companionship and Protection. Having a dog in one’s house, especially at old age, helps secure one’s life, home, and property. This is true for elderly individuals who live alone. Having a dog that helps protect the home from burglars or some have saved their owners in times of calamity or mishaps. Dog ownership can provide them the warmth and comfort of companionship as well as the undying protection of a man’s best friend. Having a pet dog elevates the mood and generates positive feelings in the elderly. As mentioned in Canidae, pet dogs also provide much needed affection and unconditional love that the elderly lack or no longer receive from younger members of the family.

The connection between humans and animals dates back to prehistoric times. Man and dog have developed a sense of interdependency that is relevant even in today’s electronic age.

Who saves who? At this point, yes, our pet dogs need us – but we have to admit that we need them in our lives much more than they need us. This goes true especially for the elderly, who have found lifelong companions and allies in their pet dogs.

With the countless news stories and testimonials of dogs saving their masters from accidents or even helping them cope with a life-threatening disease, it’s kind of crazy to think about who saves who.


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