Create Serendipity with a Cat or a Dog

I see Muffin, Tyler, and Bigelow every week. Muffin lives in a small house on the south side of town. Tyler and Bigelow live together in a new condo. Tyler and Bigelow love to wait at the door for me. I know I can always count on an exhuberant greeting from them. Muffin is shyer. I can see her peeking around the drapes when I drive into her driveway. Her greeting is more reserved but always welcoming. Muffin, Tyler, and Bigelow are my patient’s pets. I couldn’t visit their owners without first saying hello to these guys.

Muffin is a 15 year old calico cat living with her 82 year old owner, Mrs. B. If it wasn’t for Muffin, Mrs. B. would be completely alone in this world. Her husband and her only child, a daughter, died years ago. Muffin rubs against my legs as I enter the house and then heads over to the old stuffed chair where Mrs. B. sits. She jumps up on to the arm of the chair, gives a big stretch, and then settles herself down while I take out my stethescope and get ready to check Mrs. B. out.

Mr. and Mrs. H. are the elderly owners of the lively duo known as Tyler and Bigelow. Tyler and Bigelow are cocker spaniels. Mr. and Mrs. H. recently downsized to this small but new condo when Mr. H. began to have problem with his knees. He’s also lost the vision in one eye. Mrs. H., on the other hand, is in reasonably good health but doesn’t get out much anymore because she doesn’t like to leave her husband alone. It is evident that Tyler and Bigelow bring a lot of joy to their lives. For Mrs. H., the dogs give her a reason to go for quick walks where she sometimes runs into a neighbor or two. Tyler and Bigelow watch everything I do with a great deal of curiosity. They are not too sure about the blood pressure cuff and the noise it makes when I pump it up.

Both Mrs. B. and Mr. and Mrs. H. experience problems common to the elderly: loneliness, social isolation, and boredom. There is nothing like a pet to ease the sting of these problems. Loneliness isn’t quite so bad when there is a purring cat waiting for some attention.

I see alot of social isolation among my patients especially if they have given up driving. For Mrs. H., having dogs gave her a reason to get outside and go for a walk. Tyler and Bigelow helped her meet her new neighbors.

I once read about the Eden Alternative. Some assisted living facilites use this model to deinstitutionalize their facility. Plants, children, and animals become a common feature to a previously “old-people only” environment. The sense of serendipity that children and animals bring to the lives of  seniors can really make a significant impact on their health and happiness. 

Like the seniors that live in an Eden Alternative home, my patients experience the spontaneous bursts of activity, antics, and love a pet is likely to show. I never mind making my weekly visit to Muffin, Tyler, and Bigelow. They are providing the best medicine in the world to my patients.

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