Furry, Friendly & Spreading Joy to Seniors

Joyce Bristow (left) and Tyke spend a moment with Viney Martin at the NorthBay Adult Day Center in Vacaville.

Joyce Bristow has a new pet on her lead—a miniature horse named Tyke. The PAWS for Healing volunteer, who has been bringing her dogs to the Adult Day Center for more than 10 years, says Tyke is always on the lookout for a nuzzle on her muzzle. These characteristics make her a very popular visitor, according to Sandy Perez, program manager of the NorthBay Adult Day Center.

“I’ve worked in elder and Alzheimer care for more than 30 years, and I’ve always found a way to include pets as part of my programs,” Sandy reports.

“Pets are like children—they offer unconditional love. Most seniors, unless they’ve had a bad experience, respond well to animals. In fact, I’ve seen seniors, who don’t really get along with other people, enjoy the attention of visiting pets.”

Animals are welcome visitors to retirement homes and senior centers, but they can also be desirable additions to a senior’s home, Sandy says. “Pets make loyal and approachable companions and they are especially good for someone who lives alone. Having a pet around can take away that sense of isolation. It’s like having another life in the home, another soul is there.”

Having a pet in the home can also give a senior a reason to get up and move more, especially if it’s a dog that needs a daily walk, Sandy adds.

Any senior thinking about opening their home to a furry companion should consider a few things first, such as what kind of animal they’d prefer, and its size. “Large dogs may be hard to handle, take up a lot of space, and could present a trip and fall risk. Puppies might have too much energy for an older person to handle,” Sandy says. On the other hand, an older dog may have just the right amount of energy for a senior and is already house-trained.

Cats make excellent pets for seniors because they don’t need to be walked and are typically quiet, while still providing companionship and affection. Other low-maintenance pet alternatives may include parakeets, canaries, rabbits or hamsters.

The Solano County Animal Shelter at 2510 Clay Bank Road in Fairfield offers a senior discount on all licenses, and a discount on adoption fees for any animal six years old and up. For information, call (707) 784-1356.

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