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Family & Pets

Five feel-good ways to find a new pet

Five feel-good ways to find a new pet

Before buying a new lovable companion for your home, read this!

Over60 community member Di Blessing, 60, from Sandy Beach in NSW, is passionate about the plight of animals in shelters and encourages over-60s with a loving home to consider adopting or fostering a pet. Here’s why.

“I have a long history of owning pets – dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a horse, five sheep, a dozen chooks, two roosters, three ducks, a number of goldfish and a mouse. I have not remained ‘dogless’ for long because I love the companionship, unreserved love and devotion of a canine pet.

Of late, however, I have joined with my daughter, Amanda, in spreading the word on social media about the plight of animals, particularly dogs, who are confused and doomed to suffer a lonely and fearful end in an animal shelter. My daughter calls herself ‘the crazy dog lady’. She has worked tirelessly and supported a number of organisations, such as Guide Dogs, RSPCA and a number of other animal groups and shelters. She’s supported them by purchasing goods, donating money, selling goods and manning stalls. When I turned to her for help in ‘getting the message out there’, she enthusiastically contributed much of the information in this story.

Some people our age may think that their days of sharing their life with a pet are over. After all, who knows how many more years we all have? However, the trend by nursing homes to have companion dogs available for residents is for a very valid reason – pets (particularly dogs) are therapeutic. They give comfort, love and support, and ask little in return – just a feed once a day, fresh water and the occasional walk.

In our own lives, dogs provide us with unconditional love, devotion, loyalty, an excuse to chat, an extra interest and often, much-needed exercise and fresh air when walking them. More grey nomads are travelling with small to medium-sized dogs as more and more accommodation venues, such as caravan parks, allow pets. There are even websites now that list pet-friendly accommodation in Australia. It really does make sense to add to our family at our age and even if we do already have one pet, why not ‘spread the love’ and save a life at the same time?

I have never understood the act of ‘discarding’ a family member just because that cute puppy grew up, became boisterous, bad-mannered, ill, old or even just plain inconvenient! Our council pounds, RSPCA and private shelters are inundated every day with dumped animals. These poor animals are confused and fearful because their human family has abandoned them to a cold concrete cell, quite often with the smell of fear and death all around them. It’s appalling that we treat man’s best friend in this way.”

If you’re wondering how you can help, here are Di’s suggestions:

Adopt. If you’re looking to add a four-legged member to your family, please adopt, don’t shop! Try to avoid buying from pet shops as these animals quite often come from puppy mills, where dogs are kept in terrible conditions in small cages for the purposes of breeding only. They never experience a loving pat or a kind word. Gumtree and some breeders can sometimes be questionable sources too, since sellers may be backyard breeders who are mostly interested in a ‘quick buck’.

By choosing to adopt, you’re saving one of many animals who die each year in shelters around Australia. For the most part these animals are healthy, loving creatures that would jump at the chance to love again.

Visit your local pound and view the animals they have or alternatively, look into local rescue groups to see which animals they’re trying to re-home. PetRescue is a brilliant website and lists animals from all over the country who need a home. The adoption fee is very reasonable, priced so that all animals have their immunisations up to date, are wormed, flea treated and de-sexed.

Foster a pet. Carers provide much-needed love and support to animas that need temporary care until a ‘forever home’ can be found. Being a carer takes time and dedication, and although it isn’t for everyone, it’s a hugely rewarding experience. This is a great choice for someone who cannot commit to a permanent adoption or a ‘try before you adopt’ option. All vet and medical costs are provided by the foster organisation, and some of the larger ones, like RSPCA, may also provide carers with food, bedding and toys. Smaller groups, however, cannot afford this luxury and will require carers to pay for food and bedding. A small price to pay for the love of a pet and saving a life! For more information on fostering a pet, go to the Australian Foster Carers Network website.

Volunteer. If you can’t adopt and don’t think you can commit to fostering, another option is to volunteer. Quite often shelters need voluntary helpers to come in and feed the animals, clear out pens or walk the dogs. In many cases, local shelters are staffed entirely by volunteers. Any time you can spare would be much appreciated. If you’d prefer a non-hands-on role, you can offer to fundraise for your local shelter or rescue group.

Donate, sponsor or pledge. Local shelters and rescue groups are constantly in need of not only funds, but blankets, towels, sheets and food for their animals. If you have a threadbare set of sheets or blankets that you’re thinking of throwing away, donate them to a shelter or rescue group.

Keep a lookout at your local supermarket since they often have containers or bins there for donations of pet food. You can also offer a pledge of a certain amount to help with the kennelling, transport and vet costs for shelter animals. Large groups such as Pound Rounds encourage sponsorship of their pound dogs or often take pledges of money to help get animals out of shelters.

This encourages rescue groups to ensure the safety of these animals as they are more likely to take on an animal who has already had their vet work completed and has transport paid for to get the animals delivered to them. One-off donations are always gratefully received and many are tax-deductible.

Network and educate. Many people underestimate the power of social media in getting a message delivered. There are various groups on Facebook that ‘share’ the plight of animals in pounds countrywide. Some of these organisations include: Urgent Animals in Australian Pounds, Dogs in Need NSW, Golden Oldies Animal Rescue, Pound Paws Queensland, ACT Rescue and Foster, Dog Rescue Association of Victoria, SA Dog Rescue and Dogs' Rescue Home of WA. When you see a picture of a cat or a dog with a caption that reads ‘due tomorrow’, this usually means this animal is on the list to be put to sleep very soon.

By sharing these pictures on your Facebook or Twitter, you may save a life. Your friend may also share these pictures, with the end result being an animal that’s been adopted by a loving family.