Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation employee Ronnie Adam holds Petrie, the shelter’s oldest resident. Petrie hopes to be adopted through WAIF’s Seniors for Seniors program. Photo by Daniel Warn/ Whidbey News Group

WAIF’s Seniors for Seniors program a win-win

The folks at Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation (WAIF) believe that having a furry little friend late in life can mean the difference between life and death.

Shari Bibich, shelter manager at WAIF, recalls one client in assisted living who’d lost her beloved cat, which made her lose the will to live.

The lady’s family came to WAIF and got her a cat through the Seniors for Seniors Adoption Program, and it ended up making all the difference.

“We ended up calling that cat Angel, because she saved that lady’s life,” Bibich said.

With Seniors for Seniors, WAIF waves the adoption fee for clients that meet two simple requirements: The adopter must be 62 years or older and the dog or cat must be at least 8.

Bibich can also personally attest to this type of animal/human companionship doing real good for a family member’s life.

“My grandmother was living alone — her husband had died — and was very lonely,” she said. “She’d never had a pet in her life so my husband and I got her a kitty — that cat was her life until she passed.”

The new companion gave Bibich’s grandmother a sense of purpose that she hadn’t experienced in ages, Bibich said.

“It was her reason to get up in the morning, to take care of somebody else besides herself,” she said. “I truly believe it helped her live longer.”

WAIF implemented Seniors for Seniors to help more people like Angel’s owner or Bibich’s grandmother find that needed source of companionship.

Adopters have a wide variety of choices available to them.

Out of 28 cats at the main facility, 15 are classified as seniors, not to mention the two dogs that also fit the bill.

“We do get a lot of senior animals in, and we get a lot of customers that come in that are seniors,” Bibich said. “The benefit of adopting a senior animal is, they’re established in their personality, a lot of them are house broken and they’re a little bit calmer.”

Bibich said the benefits don’t stop there: Seniors for Seniors becomes a “win-win situation” because it makes pet adopting more accessible to senior citizens who are often on fixed incomes, and it allows for the adoption of animals that would have been passed over due to their ages.

Ronni Adam, a Coupeville resident who works at WAIF, likes to focus on what the Seniors for Seniors Adoption Program does for the animals in her care.

“I think Seniors for Seniors is a great program,” she said. “It is really great for the senior cats — they are hard to adopt because they’re seniors, so it gets them a nice new family.”

One cat in particular, Petrie, is looking for a companion that can meet her needs, Bibich said. The eldest cat in the facility, Petrie came to Waif “skin and bones.” It turns out that she has hyperthyroidism and needs fluids periodically. But primarily, Petrie just needs a loving lap to sit on.

“It’s sad, when you see cats come here and they’re older, because they really have a tough time,” Bibich said. “They’ve been in a home with their family — and now they’re in a shelter, and they don’t know why.”

A common story Bibich hears when older animals are dropped off is that when the kids left the nest, the owners don’t want their cat anymore.

Bibich said it is wonderful when she can find new families for these cast-off pets, especially when a new companion is a senior citizen, a portion of society that can also deal with feelings of neglect.

“What animals give us is just as important, if not more important, than what we give them,” Bibich said. “Sometimes you just need a snuggle.”