Working through cancer treatment – as so many in our community have done and continue to do – is no walk in the park. But after six months of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation it is GOOD to step outdoors with a couple of borrowed dogs taking me for a drag.

We opted for a stroll along Sechelt’s Crowston Trail. This is a lovely shaded walk connecting West Sechelt with West Porpoise Bay. The groomed level trail is thickly bordered by alders, blackberries, wildflowers, and ferns perfuming the air. A butterfly flitted past, squirrels provided occasional distractions, and oh! The birdsong! We returned home ready for a group nap.

The dogs and I are well matched – one with short legs (like me) and the other moving reluctantly into seniority (also like me).  I first discovered this trail in the company of a much younger dog looking for a new forever home, and his foster family – also much younger than I. It was a great walk – but after I finished it, I was finished and realized that (a) I had lost a lot of my fitness level after too many years parked behind a computer and (b) a younger dog is not for me. 

Matching a dog’s energy level with the owner’s is optimum, but way too often seniors opt to adopt a puppy of their preferred breed. For most breeds, that is at least a 10-year commitment. This needs regular vigorous activity for the dog’s physical and mental health. This can be very challenging for a senior owner who had aged gently with his or her previous pup. Senior or middle-aged dogs are often more laid-back, ready to move at a more sedate pace but still needing to get out for a daily constitutional.

Senior dogs are usually more socialized and gregarious, so a walk with one tends to involve a lot of interaction with other walkers. As many seniors live alone, this provides a form of daily neighbourhood interaction and stimulation that has all sorts of mental health benefits.

Senior dogs are not cute – but their personalities are usually well developed and they need a person to love, every bit as much as that cute puppy. And sharing a home with one can give both parties a new leash on life. 

by Heather Jeal

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