In defense of the late-in-life pet are studies showing the animals improve the health and quality of life of their owners. One by McMaster University epidemiologist Parminder Raina followed more than 1,000 Canadians over 65 and found that the pet owners were more physically active and also carried out activities of daily life better than non-pet-owners. But another study by Australian epidemiologist Anthony Jorm disagrees. His survey of almost 600 Australians over 70 found that pet owners were no healthier than the non-pet-owners and that they also tended to have slightly lower scores on the Mini Mental State Examination. I can certainly understand the last finding. After listening to my mother go on and on about the magnificence of Yojimbo and Ali, I start to enter a mini mental state myself.
The looming fact about older people and pets is that it can be a race to the finish line. My friend worries that if 9-year-old Argyle dies, it could hasten her own father's decline. Having suffered through the death of Yojimbo, my mother bluntly hopes Ali outlives her. As if to forestall his death, she regularly shaves four years from his age. I've never heard her lie about her own. Laura's mother has made her husband swear that when this Princess goes, it will be the last Princess. Laura's mother wants to be able to travel with her husband and spend more time with the grandchildren as a couple. That's what they did when his last German shepherd died. He promised then he was done with dogs. And they did have fun, for the entire three months he was able to live Princess-free.