The benefits of owning a pet are well documented, especially the benefits among independent seniors. For example, there are thousands of documented cases showing pets can play a huge role in lifting the fog of depression. Additionally, pets provide a vital source of companionship, show an unending amount of unconditional love and encourage many independent seniors to engage in daily exercise. With their special abilities, animals can help seniors live a more productive and fulfilled life.
While each and every pet is a hero to his or her owner, a group of specially trained dogs goes above and beyond in order to help seniors. These dogs are known as “companion animals” and each performs a unique job. Taking note of the astounding bond between dogs and their people, The American Humane Association decided it was time to recognize these hard working companion animals. In 2010, the Hero Dog Awards were created as a way to celebrate the dogs who literally spend their lives helping humans. From detecting cancer cells within the body to serving as the eyes and ears of a senior, these dogs are truly extraordinary. Let’s take a look at two Hero Dogs who helped to improve the lives of older adults.
Jingles is actually part of a duo, working alongside a second service dog, Mazy, to improve the life of their owner Karen Ann. Jingles is half Labrador Retriever and half Golden Retriever, making her senses highly accurate and her focus unbreakable. She’s a guide dog and serves as Karen Ann’s eyes, helping her navigate safely around the city or outside the home. Mazy, on the other hand, is a diabetic alert dog who amazingly alerts Karen Ann when her glucose levels are getting too high or low. Though Jingles was initially trained to work on her companion’s left side, she had to undergo a new training regimen to work with Karen Ann, as Mazy was already working on the left side. With Jingles to her right and Mazy to her left, Karen Ann’s companion animals see to it that her days are spent safely and in diabetic health. Jingles has given her owner a new found sense of independence and dignity, putting her at the top of the Hero Dog list in 2013.
Though Lola spent the first years of her life enduring abuse and neglect, she didn’t let a tragic past dampen her spirit. After being rescued and trained to help the hearing impaired, Lola was united with her owner, Charlene. As an older adult who is also deaf, Charlene struggled with isolation and depression for many years. When Lola came into her life, things immediately changed. Thanks to her Hero Dog, Charlene discovered a new desire to experience the world. Lola is, quite literally, Charlene’s ears, alerting her to things like the alarm clock, phone calls, a knock at the door or even the microwave timer. Today, you can find this amazing duo visiting area nursing homes and hospitals, bringing cheer to other seniors and spreading the word about companion animals.
No matter what job pets perform, whether it’s guiding a vision impaired senior or greeting an owner each day with a wagging tail, animals bring a unique sense of joy and companionship to humans. If your senior loved one is suffering from depression or isolation, adopting a pet could make all the difference in the world.