Dogs and the Elderly

Molly and Me

Molly was a beautiful Border Collie-Australian Shepherd mix given to me by my two granddaughters when she was 6 months old. While visiting my daughter’s family in Arizona 17 years ago Molly and I had an instant attachment. This attachment lasted for 16 years.  

 At obedience school the teacher didn’t allow metal collars or treats as she believed dogs, if treated correctly, would learn because they want to please their master. Molly was the top student in the class and was chosen for three years to demonstrate advance obedience at the County Fair. She also demonstrated her ability in the skill and ability event. They always had her run last as she was able to jump the high 3 ft. hurdles with ease. This picture was taken when she was 2 and I was 73. She’s gone now and I still have a hole in my heart.

 This introduction was written as a cathartic experience for me and a lead in to my enlightening and sometimes sad relationships with nursing homes and Alzheimer patients.

 The depressing aspects of convalescent facilities are patients with little quality of life remaining. Those lying in bed in a vegetative state make one wonder if we are doing them a favor by prolonging their lives, but know this a controversial subject. At my age I give this a lot of thought.

 I found it remarkable on our first visit to a home when Molly approached a lady in a wheel chair and put her head in her lap. The lady just beamed and I witnessed the comfort our visits would bring to people in need. People under these conditions were hungry for attention and someone to talk to from the real world. They enjoyed Molly and Molly and I derived pleasure at the same time. Most practical things learned in life comes from listening to older people and these visits were educational as in questioning them about their early life one derived different philosophies and multitudinous events in history not aware of.

 My visit with a 100 year old woman, bed ridden and blind was always a joy as she was still outwardly contented and curious with life. She had been a scientist and told me many things I wasn’t aware of from the past. During WW1 she folded parachutes for the Air Corps. I laid a towel on her bed and Molly laid next her to be petted. Her goal was to live until the year 2000 and she did.

 When reaching the age of 80 my stamina decreased and limited my visits to a 94 year old man, Gil Masters, whom I became friendly during my visits, plus he loved Molly. He was a recreational writer, like me, and we exchanged our writings for the week. I admired his writing style as he was very folksy and he liked my essays. He also adorned his writings with excellent pen sketches that brought them alive. He wrote a short book his daughter put together called Gullibl’s Travels, a description of his days during WW1 and as a hobo traveling across the country looking for work. My wife and I took a weeks vacation and upon retuning found he had passed away and he was painfully missed.  

 I would advise young people to visit with older people and question and listen for history you won’t find in books. History teachers inviting people from different eras would find it rewarding.

  Annie was obtained when Molly was around 10 to keep her active. Molly took her in as her puppy and she has turned out to be a joy. She would be amiss if I didn’t include her picture.

Remember that you don’t have to have a dog to not only learn, but lighten the day for someone who would be appreciative of your visit.

 

 

     

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4 responses to “Dogs and the Elderly

  1. Your writing makes me want to cry. Molly was a wonderful dog and gave everyone joy. My family also has a dog and last week as we visited my mother in law, newly at at a convalescent hospital, he jumped on the bed and lay there for hours as she talked with him. One must know Philo to understand that this was not his nature as he doesn’t like beds or attention apart from the immediate family. He knew he was needed.

    One of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had was working in a rest home. I met amazing people and remember them better then any contemporaries I’ve worked with. When people get old there is an authenticity about them that is refreshing and informative. I never understood that until I spent some time with the age group and found those special people I’ll never forget.

  2. Vicki Sue McKinnis

    This will be preserved in the “granite vault.” I love you, Dad.

  3. What a joyful article. I agree that older people have wonderful stories to tell you never hear in classes or read in history books. That is why I like your writing especially when you tell stories. Please tell us more stories about events you witnessed or things that happened long ago.

  4. Vicki Sue McKinnis

    This weekend I had the privilege of visiting with a woman who recently moved into our neighborhood. Our paths had crossed a handful of times before this visit and she hadn’t spoken a word, or even made eye contact; behaving as if she felt invisible. Sitting with her in the quiet of her home, I asked her questions and listened to her. She opened up and told of her travels over the world as a military wife, of the children she had raised, and of her ancestral family. She was animated, and beaming with light as she shared her experiences and wisdom. I learned so much, and came away uplifted.
    This experience reminded me that elderly folks often have a hard time in a group, but if given respect, love and individual attention, they have much to contribute. As I sat with her, I thought of this article. Thanks so much for bringing up this very important principle.

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