When my brother told me that he was buying my mother, in her 70’s, a puppy, I thought he was crazy.  I envisioned my mother sprawled on the ground, tripped by a leash, unable to get up.  Thankfully, my brother can be very persuasive.  “Casper is adorable.”  He told me over the phone.  Pictures that my mom shares with everyone she knows confirm this.  Casper, a white miniature schnauzer with big brown eyes, floppy ears and a tongue that won’t’ quit when he’s happy, is her kid now.  My brother and I live thousands of miles away with families of our own.  Casper is with her everyday encouraging her to get outside for a walk with a wag of his tail.  She gets on the floor with him to throw his favorite toy.  She did fall.  However, she was healthy and the strength she had developed allowed her to bounce back, get up and finish the loop around her house. My greatest concern became the number one reason why I wanted her to have a dog.  Older people are at risk of falling for a variety of reasons, but now I’m actually less worried about her falling.  Casper is the reason.

Perhaps owning a pet is unrealistic in your situation.  This is where therapy animals can meet a real need.  Therapy animals, unlike service animals, are owned and trained by someone else.  The animals visit schools to help kids feel a connection or to nursing homes to help someone in pain feel better.  The National Service Animal Registry, is a resource that connects people looking for a therapy animal with providers.  If you are interested in finding a therapy animal first talk to the school or to the facility that provides care for a loved one.  The request for a therapy animal must come from them.  If you are interested in becoming a provider, please listen to our podcast with Carol Ouhl to learn more about the process.  Carol Ouhl of A-HA animal Training has 50 years of raising and training dogs, cats and birds; 30 years of competing with dogs, instructing obedience and therapy animal classes; 20 years equine training and instruction. You can learn more from Carol by emailing her at

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