National / Politics

Giving an old dog new friends: Japanese organization pairs up older shelter dogs with senior citizens

Kyodo

You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but a Nagoya organization is hoping you can still find it a new home.

Dog Duca, a nonprofit organization, has started an initiative to match aging, abandoned dogs with older, hopeful dog owners.

The group runs what it calls a “senior dog supporter system” — a matching service for elderly dogs and people 65 years or older.

“Senior citizens can find new meaning in their lives, and the dogs can experience love in a rich environment,” said Shinobu Takahashi, 56, a representative of the organization.

The elderly are often hesitant to give homes to shelter dogs out of fear that future illnesses could render them unable to look after their new pets. In the same vein, most elderly dogs are shunned by prospective owners, who are usually looking for younger pets.

Takahashi meets with potential owners, who must have prior experience caring for a dog, and then selects a good match based on compatibility. If for any reason the owner becomes unable to take care of the dog, the organization will once again take charge.

Sachiko Hirabayashi, who lost her beloved 18-year-old dog last summer, made many visits to pet shops in her loneliness but ultimately could not bring herself to buy another puppy given her own advancing age.

But in late October, the 69-year-old visited Dog Duca, where she was introduced to a miniature pinscher suffering from cataracts. The choice to adopt was an easy one: The dog, thought to be around 10 years old, immediately dashed toward her and jumped onto her lap.

“It’s as if he’s been with me all along. I want to stay well for this dog. I want him to live peacefully,” Hirabayashi said.

Older dogs, who require less exercise, are also easier to walk. They are also likely to get more attention from elderly owners, who are no longer preoccupied by other responsibilities such as work and children.

The organization provides extensive care following the transfer of ownership. It contacts owners on an almost daily basis to check up on both the dog and the new owner. In order to facilitate a fast response in the event of unforeseen circumstances, adoption is limited to those living in the Nagoya area.