The Old Friends - "Off The Leash"
The Old Friends – “Off The Leash”

The link between pet ownership and improved health is well-documented, with experts ranging from WebMD, to the CDC and Animal Planet weighing in on the benefits. Dogs, cats, and all things furry offer physical, emotional and social gains to their owners that are undeniable. Starting with unconditional love, and a built-in social network of fellow dog and cat, bunny or bird lovers, studies have shown that owning a pet also lowers blood pressure, reduces anxiety and depression, encourages exercise, and lowers the production of the stress chemicals that can damage the immune system and lead to heart attacks. Lucky for us, San Diego is known to be one of the most pet-friendly cities in the country, with trails, beaches, parks and even restaurants that welcome dogs. Of course, pet ownership can be expensive, but San Diego seniors, caregivers and homecare companions can access many local resources that help seniors and their pets stay together and thrive.

The most important step in pet ownership is making the match: choosing the right pet for your lifestyle. San Diego has many rescues and shelters that harbor strays or surrendered pets. These groups will help you find the right animal, and make sure that you and your new friend are a good fit – but some also offer resources like training classes, meal programs, and low-cost spay and neuter clinics. Here are just a few of them:

  • The San Diego Humane Society, headquartered in Mission Valley on Gaines Street, has served San Diego County since 1880. This facility works with thousands of animals every year, and now has four locations. Just last year, SDHS finally achieved its goal of becoming a no-kill shelter, meaning that every adoptable animal has a safe haven until they have a home. The Humane Society supports seniors adopting animals in two ways:

Once you’ve found your furry soulmate, life is grand, but what happens when it’s not? San Diego is still pet-friendliest place, with many resources to help you and your pet stay healthy, and together. For example:

  • The San Diego Animal Support Foundation lists several organizations that help animals and owners stay together in the face of high vet bills. Here are just a few:

    • FACE  works with 100 vets in San Diego to prevent the growing tragedy of ‘economic euthanasia.’ As these vets donate their services at a 25% discount, and FACE is a 501{c}3 supported entirely by donations, you can support their work by using one of these generous vets
    • PAWS San Diego: helps seniors, the chronically ill and disabled, and low-income pet families keep their pets. They offer a growing in-home delivery program of pet food and services, and recently added veterans, the homeless, and those in temporary economic crisis to their mission.
    • The Brown Dog Foundation helps pets whose medical needs are urgent, but whose owners can’t pay immediately. When they can’t afford to wait, eligible applicants can get help from the Brown Dog Foundation.
    • These other national groups will help with doggie wheelchairs, cancer treatment, and even non-emergency care.

And what about when you and your dog both have a little gray around the muzzle?

  • Lionel’s Legacy is a San Diego dog rescue that specializes in senior dogs, as their adoption rates are lower than average, and they often have serious medical issues and expenses.

    • Lionel’s Legacy is foster-based, meaning they are always looking for new foster homes. You can foster a senior dog, which is a great way to enjoy a pet’s companionship without the financial responsibility or commitment worries. Senior pets are ‘easy like Sunday morning’, and who doesn’t need more of that?

Rescue groups take in many dogs with serious medical issues whose owners can’t afford to pay for their care, but the best solution for animals and humans is staying with their family. The Humane Society of the United States offers a list of ideas and resources for pet owners who may find themselves in this position. Adopting an animal is a lifetime commitment, yours and theirs, and when life tries to break that bond, there are many resources in San Diego that can help you and your loved ones ‘stay’.