Charitable Choices: Karen Cook of ElderDog

For many of us, our pets are our family, and as we age we recognize the difficulty it can be to take care of them the way we want to while also taking care of ourselves. ElderDog is a charity whose goal is to take away that stress and make sure you feel good about loving your 4 legged family member well. We spoke with communications coordinator Karen Cook to learn more.


Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences. 

ElderDog Canada has been around for 15 years and is a national organization with just over 30 chapters – or pawds – across the country. ElderDog may be a bit of a misnomer as our mandate is to support older adults in the care of their dogs. But in doing that, we are also promoting the welfare of the older dog whose life gets disrupted by whatever may be going on with their human companion. We recognize the power of the human-dog relationship and the vital connection between older adults and their dogs and we work to preserve that bond. Our volunteers can serve on our board doing social media, fundraising and financial duties and/or walk dogs, foster dogs temporarily and take dogs to the vet or groomers.

What problem does it aim to solve? 

As we age and encounter more issues related to our physical, mental and emotional well-being, it gets more challenging often to care for our dogs. Yet we know from research that the companionship of pets – and in our case, dogs –can help people be more active and more engaged and also reduce the effects of anxiety, depression, dementia and loneliness. So ElderDog makes it easier by offering resources, free of charge to clients, to assist and support older adults in the care and well-being of their canine companions and to educate them about the human-animal bond in general and the significant role of companion animals in the health and well-being of seniors.

When did you start/join it? What made you want to get involved? 

ElderDog combines two areas of interest for me. I feel like seniors are misunderstood as they get older and are not valued and so I want to work with them. And I am a big dog lover. I joined as a volunteer in late 2019. While I still work full-time, my kids are grown and I wanted to use my skills to help a non-profit that I felt could benefit from what I could offer. ElderDog’s objectives really appealed to me. As a senior myself, I really understand the mission.

What was the situation like when you started? 

There was one person doing most of the executive positions – leading, volunteer coordination including finding fosters, treasurer, fundraising, rehoming, establishing community connections – and a small group of volunteers who were trying to make a difference. It was very challenging to get a foothold and gain awareness in this city where there are so many great animal charities, despite ElderDog’s very specific mandate.

How has it changed since? 

We have had three different pawd leaders since 2019 and now are looking for yet another. Our executive has filled out a little more and everyone is super great – very committed. Our volunteer base has increased. And with the expansion of the pawds, our national office has been working harder to establish consistency so we look like the same organization whether the pawd is in Lunenburg County, Edmonton or Sooke. These tools are really valuable to a completely volunteer-run operation.

What more needs to be done? 

We really need to reach Calgarians with our mission as it is unique relative to other charities/non-profits. We are not a rescue per se: we serve older adults and we are dog-specific. So building awareness of what sets us apart and how we can help seniors and their canine companions in our community is paramount.


How can our readers help? 

Spread the word – please! And if you know a senior who is in need of temporary dog care – maybe they had an injury and need their dog walked – send them our way. We also need volunteers who can hang in with us as we go through the ebbs and flows: sometimes we don’t have as many clients so our volunteers are waiting in the wings and sometimes we have more clients than volunteers and we can’t help them. It can be up and down.

Do you have any events coming up? 

We are gearing up for the pet festival season and are hoping to hear soon about the ones we have applied to for a booth. As we don’t have any funds, we are reliant on those fairs that let non-profits set up for free. We will be at Parkdale Petfest, for example, in September and hope to line up a few more for late spring and summer.

Where can we follow you?

Our national office has a website with all the volunteer and donation information as well as our mission. Locally we are on Facebook and Instagram.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love? 

Well, naturally we appreciate all the animal-related charities – Pause4Change and ARTS which is for senior dogs and cats are two favourites – but I personally love the mission and purpose of The Veterans Food Bank of Calgary. We need to support military and frontline emergency personnel and this food bank does it with great respect for their clientele.


About Demian Vernieri 561 Articles
Demian is an Argentinian retired musician, avid gamer and editor for the Montréal Guardian, Toronto Guardian, Calgary Guardian and Vancouver Guardian websites.