Sheila Burgess, of Ridgefield, stops and pets her Saint Bernard Pierre while on a walk at the Fairgrounds Community Park in Ridgefield Nov. 15. Pierre is an important part of her life, Burgess said. “I decided to get Pierre because I was lonely and I needed somebody after losing my husband,” she said. “My dog keeps me company. I can talk to him and he makes me go out and walk.”

Furry friends such as dogs, cats, bunnies and more can provide joy, excitement and relaxation in a life that could otherwise be seen as mundane. 

Along with surface level enjoyment, the Humane Society for Southwest Washington (HSSW) wants seniors to know that pets can provide opportunities for seniors to keep a healthy lifestyle. 

“Dogs especially help create a life of walks and activity, most likely twice a day. Without having a dog, many people would not keep to this habit,” Vice President for Marketing for the Humane Society of Southwest Washington Denise Barr said. “Really for anyone living alone and not working, loneliness can be an issue. Imagine that seniors could go for a number of days without interaction with other people. Interaction with a cat and or dog can create connection and company.”


Six-month-old Pierre, a Saint Bernard puppy, stops to eat leaves while on a walk at Fairgrounds Community Park in Ridgefield with his owner Sheila Burgess Nov. 15. Burgess thinks having a pet is very important. “Everyone should have a pet because they are company and they keep you going, a lot of people give up because they don’t care about living,” she said. “Having a pet gives you something to live for.”

Barr said companionship plays a large part in why seniors own pets. 

“Pets give people purpose, keep them active and provide companionship. Pets are the great connectors to other people. If you meet someone, one of the first things they talk about is a cat or dog at home,” she said. “Often they grab their phones and share photos and stories of these wonderful creatures.”

Ridgefield resident Sheila Burgess echoed Barr’s statement on companionship and exercise as she adopted her dog, Pierre, after her husband passed away. 

“My dog keeps me company,” she said. “I can talk to him and he makes me go out and walk. What I love most about Pierre is his companionship and because he loves to be cuddled. Everyone should have a pet because they are company and they keep you going. A lot of people give up because they don’t care about living. Having a pet gives you something to live for.”

HSSW’s Barr also touched on the idea of different pets providing different benefits. 

While dogs can provide seniors more opportunities to get out and exercise, cats can be a great choice for seniors who aren’t as mobile because they are physically less demanding. Other pets such as bunnies, chinchillas and reptiles can be good, less-mobile choices for seniors. 

“Of course (these animals are good) if it makes them happy,” Barr said. “Most likely, if they are interested in these types of pets in their younger years, they will like them in the later years.”

Barr also mentioned the main fear for seniors is the chance of their pets outliving them. 

“People requested that HSSW create a program to help deal with this issue. Home Again Guardian Program was created as part of our estate planning efforts. With this program, HSSW will immediately take pets of people who have passed and they enter the shelter as VIPs. They will go into foster until a new home is identified,” she said.

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Our animal friends help us in many ways. #1 is that it get's us out of self as we want them to be healthy and happy. The walking is great, and the dog's really look forward to it. We do 2 miles in the forest in the morning, and 1/2 in the evening. They keep you calm and they do give you love. We adopted the cat when my housemate was extremely sick for a month. She had never liked animals. The cat laid on her bed for the whole money. Now she would die if something happened to "Cali". If got three buried in the back yard and I've got to live to 2026 or the 2 dogs I have now will be orphans. I seriously think that they are my main reason that I have to stay alive and upright.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.