‘A disturbing media story last year brought home the challenges elderly pet owners face when caring for their pets. A pet starved to death because it’s elderly owner had dementia and forgot to feed their dog.’ We hear from Dr Alicia Kennedy, of Cherished Pets. ‘In my personal experience as a vet for 30 years I’ve come to recognise the importance of pets to the elderly, as well as the challenges they sometimes face. This led me to start up Cherished Pets, a social veterinary enterprise that specifically supports pets of elderly and disabled people living alone in our community.
‘Just recently there has been an article substantiating the benefits of companion pets on mental health. I’m thrilled to be delivering a program where human health and animal health intersect. We established our charity partner, Cherished Pets Foundation, to provide additional support to eligible people.
‘In my profession I had been maintaining the health and wellbeing of the pet. Through doing this I’ve formed strong attachments with the owners, and now the focus is not just on the pet but also the person behind the pet.
‘As people get older and their circumstances change e.g. they might lose a partner, their need for their pet goes up. However their ability to care for the pet is often compromised. This got me thinking: how can we as a community support our elderly neighbours so they can enjoy the benefits of a pet. We aim to take the worry out of it for them. We support the elderly, those with disabilities, those in domestic violence situations, the homeless and those with mental health issues. Where possible, we match volunteers to provide in-home and respite care for the pet.
‘We need more volunteers for this. At present we operate throughout the Bellarine but would love to extend our services to Geelong. Other volunteers work on marketing and fundraising. We also have a board. We desperately need funding and people can donate through our website. http://www.cherishedpetcare.com.au/
‘My work is twofold. I’m a vet who works from home and offers a unique tailored service to the elderly and disabled. I also offer in-home care of pets through all stages of their lives, from initial check-ups and annual vaccinations, to compassionate home euthanasia. I find supporting families through the end of their pet’s life so important. When it is in their own home it is a different experience to being in a clinic. We’re at the frontline supporting people at vulnerable times by managing the health of their pet for them. We have a very strong animal welfare component.
‘Personally, I’m a community connector and advocate for pets and the elderly. www.facebook.com/cherishedpetsveterinarycare ‘My hash tag on twitter is #thinkpets. I’ve been involved in the not-for-profit sector for years as a Founding Director of the Jane Goodall Institute in Australia, which among other things empowers young people to take action for a better world. This journey prepared me for founding Cherished Pets.’
Photo: Mr Walters, Tessie and Alicia.