For the media

My journey with Bernie

By The Health News Team | July 8, 2022
JoAnn Siudara with Bernie, her Maltipoo

JoAnn Siudara with Bernie, her Maltipoo.

JoAnn Siudara is a marketing specialist at Sharp HealthCare.

Growing up in a small Midwestern town, the dogs in our family were forever playmates. They would chase us on our bikes, swim in the pool and follow us as we pushed the lawnmower. Much to my mom’s chagrin, we had birds, cats, chameleons, horses and dogs — sometimes at the same time.

When I grew older and started my own family, my children were raised with golden retrievers. Our first golden, Goldie, saved us from a house fire in the early 1990s. Like my dad, dogs have always been there for me.

A few years ago, I was at a crossroads. I was preparing to move into an active senior community and had recently lost my goldendoodle. I wanted to adopt a dog, yet training a new puppy was not an option. I found myself on a dog rescue website, browsing through pictures and reading stories of beloved dogs needing a new home. That’s where I saw Bernie, a 7-pound, white Maltipoo. He had been rescued from a dumpster with a broken hip and lived in a foster home for six months due to surgeries. Within a few weeks, he was home with me. And I was smiling again.

It’s estimated that at least half of older adults in the U.S. have a pet. Dog ownership has many health and emotional benefits. Dog companionship has been known to help reduce stress, lower blood pressure and enhance social interaction. Having a dog may even help improve or prevent depression and anxiety. Plus, exercising with your dog is a great way to stay active.

In general, the best dog breeds for seniors are on the smaller side with moderate energy levels. Bernie is small, he doesn’t shed and is very quiet. I don’t know his life story, but he was house-trained and very playful the moment I brought him home. He is a great dog for senior living.

Bernie gets me out into the sunshine every morning, walking and talking with neighbors. He loves his dog friends, and their owners have become my friends as well. Playing fetch at our nearby dog park is also a favorite for both of us. San Diego is a very dog-friendly community, and Bernie accompanies me on shopping trips and to outdoor restaurants. Wherever we go, his cute, friendly disposition leads to many positive social interactions.

My home is not lonely because of Bernie. The squeak of a ball, the cuddles on the sofa and the little pouf on the end of the bed let me know I’m not alone. Having someone to take care of rekindles the same nurturing spirit I enjoyed while raising my kids. Bernie’s loyalty and playful ways make me realize that he really rescued me, right after I rescued him.

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