Volunteer organization provides companionship for seniors and help with dog care

EDMONTON — An organization that helps seniors with their dogs has proved essential through the pandemic, not just for the animals, but their owners too. In many cases volunteers are the only contact their clients have.

Mojo is an 8-year-old Chocolate Lab. He loves his daily walks, but it’s not his owner at the other end of the leash.

“She’s in a wheelchair, so it’s really challenging to come out especially in this weather,” said Annaka Cook, a volunteer with ElderDog Canada.

Both Mojo’s owners aren’t able to walk him in the winter because of mobility issues.

“What do you do? He needs the exercise,” said Margaret Jones, who owns Mojo.

“Mojo had hurt himself this summer and gained 20 pounds. The vet’s not happy.”

They found an organization called ElderDog. Cook is one of their volunteer walkers.

“A lot of our clients, especially in this inclement weather and cold can’t get out either due to health issues or disability issues,” said Cook.

Cook walks about seven dogs each week.

“It gives them still what they need in their daily life that their owners can’t give them at the time,” she said.

She’s one of 150 volunteers.

“We have volunteers that do transport, either picking up supplies that are needed, and also transporting dogs to vet appointments or for grooming.”

They also foster dogs when needed.

Cook may spend most of her time with mojo – but has created a bond with his owner.

“I usually stand outside, she’s inside and we will talk for anywhere for ten minutes to half an hour sometimes. But again right now with COVID we are limiting that amount of time.”

In many cases, because of the pandemic ElderDog volunteers are the only contact clients have.

“We have common interests. As much as I feel bad her hanging in the door when she should be able to come in and sit down and have a coffee. It’s really, really good for me,” Jones said.

“It’s just nice because we all need people in our lives. It’s hard to be alone,” Cook said. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson.

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