Is a pet-friendly senior living community a good idea?

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Joe Agee

People love their pets.

Because cats are trained to go to the bathroom in their litter box, they really don't require much care. The owner has to feed them, pet them, and clean out the pooh from time to time, but cats are mostly low stress and easy to deal with.

In that many cats are indoor felines, one seldom sees someone taking their cat out for a walk on a leash. However, we actually have one here at The Seabrook! You can't help but laugh out loud when you see this tabby pulling her owner here, there and everywhere.

The real question is about dogs. Our furry four-legged friends love us to pieces, and we love them just as much.

Quite often when one spouse dies, the remaining spouse considers taking on a dog as a pet. A dog acts can be a faithful companion for someone living alone.

Pet owners see taking care of their dog as like taking care of a child. Many people are nurturers and they need someone, in this case, a pet, to love and take care of. I've seen folks who have had their pups for 12 to 14 years and treat their canine companions as if they were their own flesh and blood.

So, what's the rub?

My biggest concern about the elderly having a dog involves the size of the dog and the status of owners' overall balance. Does the dog pull on the leash? How strong is the dog? Can the leash be stripped away and the dog scamper off?

Falling while walking an energetic dog can be quite devastating. I've seen women and men fall hard to the ground while trying to keep up with their pet pooch.

When folks start aging and complications arise physically, when even walking becomes a strenuous task, there might come a time when it would be better not to have to care for a dog.

In this case, why not offer a loving hand with your neighbor's pooch? You can get a good pet fix without the responsibility of walking, feeding and cleaning up after your pet. If you give your dog-buddy a bone or biscuit, he'll never forget you. You will become his best friend outside of his owner.

(I have dogs barge into my office and start sniffing the second drawer of my desk, knowing there's a bag of bones inside! They are relentless in their pursuit.)

Like everything else seniors deal with in the aging process, proper balance becomes more and more difficult. Maybe this idea has crossed your mind before, but when it comes time to walk Fido or Toby, why not employ a dog walker? Yes, it's a few extra dollars but it beats 30-plus days in rehab for a broken collar bone or damaged wrist. And that might be just the tip of the iceberg.

I love dogs. We've had multiple dogs my entire married life, but I think there comes a time we need to know what our limits are and be honest with ourselves as to whether pet ownership is a good idea today.

I like the pet-friendly feature for senior living, but there might come a time when it's unsafe and inappropriate for some people.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. TheSeabrook.com

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