Tanya Ozard is thrilled to be relaunching the ElderDog Walk at DeWolf Park in Bedford for the first time in more than two years.
“Very fortunately during COVID, we were recognized all across the country as an essential service, which was very helpful because we were able to continue servicing our senior clients and their dogs — but of course with all the correct protocols in place to keep everyone safe,” notes the charity’s Halifax PAWD coordinator.
“But in terms of doing in-person events, we have not been able to do anything since COVID.”
The main fundraising event for the local chapter of the ElderDog organization, Ozard says the annual walk was just beginning to build momentum when the province was suddenly put in lockdown by the pandemic in March of 2020.
Ever since, the organization has struggled to keep up with the funds required to maintain the care and needs of senior dogs and their owners that are provided assistance through the organization’s generous volunteers.
From providing veterinary care and helping to purchase pet products, to facilitating and funding a senior dog’s journey to a new forever home, ElderDog is an invaluable service that supports local elders in caring for their canine companions.
“Some of the clients that we support don’t have any family or maybe don’t have any family that is local, so sometimes we are the only people they see,” notes Ozard of the organization’s importance. “So during COVID, knowing that somebody was going to knock on their door and take their dog out for a walk was really important — it gave them that connection that they didn’t otherwise have.”
Set to take place at DeWolf Park on Saturday, September 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Ozard hopes the ElderDog Walk will attract all owners and dogs, whether they are involved in the organization or not.
“Everybody knows someone that needs help,” says Ozard, who has been with ElderDog for about six years. “It’s certainly about building awareness. We are always working on education and outreach to spread the message about ElderDog and the work that we do, which helps us support seniors — and of course, in order to support seniors we need volunteers.”
Ozard adds volunteers are always in demand with ElderDog. She notes the charity’s walk program organizes small teams for each senior and their dog so that both can become familiar with their participating volunteers.
“So if you have 40 or 50 clients, that’s 280 to 300 walks a week — it’s a lot of walks,” says Ozard. “So that’s why we need a lot of volunteers for that program.”
However, the ElderDog Walk isn’t simply a call to volunteers. Ozard notes the event aims to maintain a celebratory tone, adding that it is an occasion to thank volunteers for their efforts throughout the year.
“Our founder, Ardra Cole – her vision is that all of the PAWDS across the country will participate in an ElderDog Walk. So that’s our long-term goal,” says Ozard. “At a local level, it does build community, which is really important. It’s important for our volunteers to feel they're part of something greater than themselves.”
In addition to the actual walk along the Bedford waterfront, the event will spotlight sponsors and participating vendors offering merchandise, prizes as well as a bake table for both humans and their furry friends.
Created in 2009 by Mount Saint Vincent University professor and researcher Dr. Ardra Cole, ElderDog also conducts and supports research and education about the bond between humans and dogs and the role of companion animals in the health and well being of seniors.
“Our core program is trying to support that relationship — that really important relationship between the dog and the senior,” says Ozard, adding she has witnessed many heartwarming experiences between pets and seniors. “It has a huge impact, which is why I am still part of it.”
For more information on the ElderDog Walk, visit the event website.