By Stacy Lynn Fernandes
Recently, my family had to move my grandma to a long-term care home. It’s been hard on my family, but I think it’s been even harder on my 13-year-old bichon, Toby.
He did most of his growing up with her while I was at school and, more recently, at work. They took naps together, ate together and even watched TV together. With grandma in her new home, Toby’s routine has changed and it is clear to see he misses her.
Normally, Toby would wait for Grandma outside of the bathroom, sleep in her room and even follow her as she walked with her walker. She had recently called him her “Protector.”
It made me start to think about how huge a part of my family our dog is, and how he has enriched all of our lives. We always make sure we take him with us to family functions and on vacations - there are some pet friendly hotels in Toronto that even offer your pet some yummy treats (Check out these links- Westin Harbour Castle and InterContinental Toronto Centre .)
Toby is definitely a part of the family – and a big part at that.
My experiences with Toby got me thinking about all the benefits of having a pet.
Studies have shown our blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are generally lower when you own a pet.
They can also help build children’s confidence, teach responsibility and improve social skills. Laughter helps maintain good mental health and our pets help us laugh even when we are feeling down.
I remember when Toby was a puppy, how he would run around the kitchen with Grandma’s fuzzy slippers. He always seemed to know the perfect time to snatch them off her feet. Pets also help families spend more quality time together, as families tend to share playtime, walks and training duties.
So how do I keep the bond between my Grandma and Toby strong? I take Toby on weekly visits to the long-term care facility for some quality time with Grandma. And I’m not the only one bringing my furry friend for a visit.
I’ve met other people who bring their pets in to visit family members, and there are even therapy dogs that come in on regular visits (For another great story, check out this link - The Benefits of Dogs for Seniors .)
Toby and I have begun our new journey with my Grandma. Wish us luck, and we will keep you posted.
Stacy Lynn Fernandes, MSc, is Nestlé Purina’s pet nutrition expert for Canada. Stacy is a member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition, and has been working at PawsWay Pet Education Centre for more than five years. She owns one dog and a friendly newt. Meet Stacy at PawsWay to ask a nutritional question. Visit www.pawsway.ca for details.