petlife with Dr. Erin Heck

Share your pet’s joy with others

Dr. Erin Heck, AirdrieAs a veterinarian, I have been fortunate to witness the way that pets enrich, enlighten and invigorate our lives. The most memorable example of this was when I volunteered for pet therapy at a nursing home in Calgary with my loveable golden retriever Oakley.

The activity co-ordinator guided me and Oakley around the facility to visit with eager-eyed residents who were so happy to pat him on his head and give him a treat. One week we took the elevator up to the third level and walked into a room with an elderly lady tucked into a hospital bed; it looked like she was staring into nothingness.

The activity co-ordinator took the woman’s wrinkled, limp hand and used it to stroke Oakley’s head. All of a sudden her body just came to life; her fingers started to move, her head tipped toward Oakley and she started to talk to him. The whole room was in awe watching a conversation between an elderly woman and a red, fluffy, adolescent golden retriever. The woman spoke a language that was foreign but we all could understand the love and excitement that flowed through her words. I later learned that she was 103 years old and had not spoken to anyone in two months.

All animal lovers can recall those special moments when you witness an outpouring of love for a furry friend in the most unscripted of instances. When you can see how that pet impacts someone’s life to make it fuller, brighter and ultimately worth living.

The holiday season can be difficult for people in our community who are socially isolated, including those in seniors’ homes, hospitals, hospice care and homeless shelters. Sharing your pet with others can be the greatest gift that you give this year. You and your furry family member can volunteer with PALS (an organized pet therapy group) or talk to your community nursing home, hospital or shelter.

Dr. Erin Heck is a veterinarian with Happy Paws Veterinary Clinic in Airdrie.

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