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Pets and seniors: keeping them together is a mission for Caroline Bell

Caroline Bell, shown here with her father Bob and his dog Beatrice, says that seeing her father with his dog showed her how important dogs are to the well-being of seniors
Caroline Bell

When animal rescue and a passion for helping the elderly cross paths, lives change for the better, according to an article published today in the Anderson Independent Mail.

When Caroline Bell left her job in corporate America six years ago as the health of both of her parents began to deteriorate, she had no idea that not too far down the road she would be helping other members of the "sandwich generation" navigate that path as well.

Bell has never been one to attempt something halfway. When her father needed a full time caregiver, Bell went through the entire Certified Nursing Assistant course so she could learn how to care for him properly. She also completed a certificate in Gerontology.

So it's not surprising to hear the excitement in her voice as she talks about her vision for her business. Her mission is simple: to facilitate senior citizens to age in their own homes and with their pets as long as safely possible. But although the mission is simple, the logistics involved in making this happen often seem insurmountable to a senior who believes he or she is facing both the loss of their independence and the loss of what may be their only round-the-clock companion.

Clearly her empathy for her own parents has provided her with insight that is badly needed in the community as the population of senior citizens increases each year.

Bell was her father’s caregiver for seven years. “I saw how important it was for my father to have my rescue dogs come see him; it made me understand how much he missed his pet Beatrice,” said Bell.

After the death of her father, she became involved with helping other seniors and their pets through her volunteer work with Oconee Animal Rescue.

Pat Dotson was one of them. Dotson’s mother has a Chihuahua named Cassie, who basically became her lifeline after her husband died. When Dotson’s mother became ill and was undergoing rehabilitation at Anderson Place, Dotson would bring Cassie by to visit. As her mother’s condition improved, she began to look forward to the visits, and they motivated her to sit up and play with Cassie.

Basically Cassie gave Dotson’s mother a reason to get well.

When Dotson’s mother passed away, she reached out to Oconee Animal Rescue for help with Cassie. Bell and her business partner Sindie Crease took Cassie into their rescue. Over the past three years, the non-profit has taken in over 200 dogs. Most of the dogs were placed in other homes; the ones that have not been placed remain with the rescue in what has become a sanctuary for dogs of senior citizens.

In fact, Bell plans to use property near her home on Lake Hartwell to build a permanent sanctuary for dogs whose aging owners are no longer able to care for them.

“It is important that seniors plan for their pets. Older pets that end up in an animal shelter often don’t survive; it is difficult for them to compete for attention with cute playful puppies, plus since they are older they may be more susceptible to catching an illness going around the shelter,” says Bell.

“It’s important that they locate a sanctuary, rescue, or friend who can commit to take the pet. By planning for the expenses that the pet will incur – food, vet bills, grooming, and other necessities – and setting those funds aside, they can help ensure that their beloved pet lives out their normal lifespan in the event that the owner dies or goes into care.”

Bell hopes that through Oconee Animal Rescue and her business, Preparing for Care, that she can assist other families with the process she navigated with her own parents.