Senior Canines Bring Love And Companionship To Senior Citizens
A little over 11 years ago, Charlotte Aylor-Diaz walked into the Burlington County Animal Shelter in New Jersey, looking for a dog to save. Charlotte’s beloved dog Layla had just the day before succumbed to cancer, and though heartbroken, she knew that she needed to save another dog’s life in Layla’s honor.
That’s where she met Dulcie, the Chow/Border Collie mix who was four-years-old at the time and looked like a miniature version of Layla. Dulcie had been rescued from a hoarder situation and never even seen the outside world. She was pregnant, suffering from advanced heartworm, and in a sad state. Dulcie’s pups could not be saved, but Charlotte was able to save Dulcie and give her the medication and care she needed to become the beautiful loving pup she is today.
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Charlotte loved Dulcie, and after another one of her dogs passed away, again found herself looking to save a dog in remembrance. That’s where Diego came in. Diego was a 6-month-old Cocker Spaniel/Coonhound mix and was homeless in a high-kill shelter in Alabama.
Once she adopted him, though, she found he had a horrible cough and a huge mass in his lungs, possibly signifying pneumonia or cancer. Vets didn’t know for sure, but treated for infection, hoping for the best. Though he continued, for nearly 18 months he was not fully recovered, and only after Charlotte insisted on a scan of Diego did they learn the ‘mass’ wasn’t a tumor–it was his liver and intestines going into his lung cavity. Diego had no diaphragm.
Charlotte scheduled and paid for the costly surgery for Diego and in spite of it all, came out a happy and healthy dog. He learned, however, from all the months of being low activity and not well, how to be calm and gentle, making him a perfect candidate for a therapy dog.
Charlotte has spent the last 30 years as a pet therapy human and along with Lynette Whiteman established Caregiver Canines–Visiting Therapy Dog Program of Caregiver Volunteers of Central New Jersey in 2009. The first Caregiver Canine volunteers were Dulcie and Diego, and they have a special affinity for the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s. Dulcie puts her head in their laps and allows them to pet her as they share with her the same story, over and over. The therapeutic duo just have an ability to calm folks when they get agitated that is unlike some human ability, and currently visit sweet Addie, who is 96-years-old and has been visited by the pair since 2013.
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Addie loves having the companionship of the dogs and the conversation and help around the house from Charlotte. She shows her gratitude by ensuring that the dogs get a whole sleeve of saltine crackers every time they visit. The dogs appreciate the love and Charlotte calls the work a blessing as all of her therapy dogs (this is her third set of therapy dog pairs) were rescued, most from shelters as adults or older dogs. The love that she sees her senior dogs give to senior humans is what she considers the most important kind of pet therapy.
We think so too.
More by Lori Ennis