Fourteen-year-old Maggie loves when her friends visit her Walnut Grove home to take her out for a walk.
Maggie is John and Marjorie Sutherland’s miniature poodle, who has local volunteers from ElderDog visit her twice a week to get some outdoor time.
ElderDog is a Canada-wide non-profit run by volunteers who help seniors with their dog’s daily activities – free of charge.
“The intention really is to provide services to seniors,” said ElderDog’s Christina Saremba.
“A senior can be someone, let’s say, 55-plus, but there isn’t any specific marked age… we have some people who are sometimes younger than that, but they might [have a disability] and need some help with their guide or assistance dog.”
John believes he was introduced to ElderDog by one of his daughters.
“I got three daughters and they sure help me a lot,” the 91-year-old laughed.
John and Marjorie aren’t able to walk Maggie anymore, so volunteers at ElderDog have been visiting the local couple since June 2019 to help get the pup some exercise.
“We’re getting older, we can’t take her for walks, [but] we use to take her for walks,” John said. “[Now], ElderDog comes and takes the weight off our shoulders.”
Volunteers Joanne Mills and Darwyn Samuels “a semi-retired couple,” also from Walnut Grove, have been walking Maggie once-a-week since July, according to Saremba.
But soon volunteer Kate Westlake will be walking Maggie.
“Kate is a mother of two young boys who recently moved to Walnut Grove from South Surrey,” Saremba explained. “She has done a couple of dog walks when she filled in for Joanne and Darwyn.”
The long-time Langley resident said the couple appreciates the service, but none more than Maggie who bolts for the door when her friends come visit.
“Dogs are very intelligent, if they are mistreated or don’t like [someone] they don’t go,” said John. “Maggie knows who’s at the door before she even looks.”
ElderDog was first founded in Nova Scotia in 2009 by Dr. Ardra Cole and it now operates all across the country, including Langley.
The non-profit offers services in a variety of areas such as dog care support, re-homing of dogs, education, and bereavement support.
“Volunteers go to the seniors place of residence… and assist them with their dog needs,” Saremba explained.
“Often it’s dog walking, sometimes the seniors just can’t get out to exercise their dog and walk their dog. Sometimes it’s basic grooming. Then we have volunteers who will help to do transportation. Perhaps the senior needs to bring the dog to the vet… or perhaps they go get food because it’s too heavy for the senior to carry.”
In other instances, pet owners make arrangements with ElderDog for temporary foster care.
“And that is something the senior might arrange ahead of time if they know they might be going into hospital and they need to have someone, who they can trust, to look after their dog,” Saremba elaborated.
“So it helps to alleviate the worry for the client – one, that their dog will be cared for well, and by someone who really cares for the dog.”
Money raised by the organization is used to support the dogs, which in some cases can be costly.
“Typically most of the funds that are raised by ElderDog – because nobody gets paid, everybody’s a volunteer – go towards vet bills,” Saremba noted.
All volunteers must undergo a criminal record check after completing a volunteer application. Anyone fostering a dog is also vetted.
And for those seniors who lose their dog, they can arrange with ElderDog to have a memorial set up on a property in Nova Scotia where the non-profit was first founded.
“When a dog passes away they can arrange for a memorial to be there, and every year they do a butterfly release,” Saremba said.
“They’ve always been really good,” John concluded about the service.
For more information about ElderDog visit www.elderdog.ca or contact