The Importance of Keeping Older People and Their Companion Animals Together: The Bob Harvey Award

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“There’s never been a cat like Freddie”: The importance of keeping older people and their companion animals together

The Bob Harvey Award, jointly created by The Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) and Fostering Compassion, recognises a care home, hospital, hospice, or care facility that has gone above and beyond the call of duty to keep older people and their companion animals together.

Nominations are welcomed from anyone who is aware of any facility (anywhere in the world) worthy of consideration. The winner will be chosen by a panel of experts and will be announced at the annual SCAS conference on 20 October 2024.

Download a nomination form here

The Bob Harvey Award

The story of Bob and his little dog Darcie illustrates why it is so very important to protect the human-companion animal bond.

Following a change in management, Bob was given the devastating news that Darcie was no longer allowed to stay in the home with him and that if he didn’t “get rid” of him, they faced eviction. He could not bear to be parted from his faithful companion so, at the age of 87, he endured yet another traumatic upheaval as he and his little dog moved out of the care home and into a modest bungalow. Read or listen to Bob’s full story, told by Fostering Compassion founder, Lesley Winton.

Bob Harvey & Darcie (Fostering Compassion)

Very sadly, Bob died in October 2020, and little Darcie died just 10 weeks later. In his memory, SCAS and Fostering Compassion launched The Bob Harvey Award in 2023.

Keeping Pets and Older People Together

There is growing acceptance now that people and their pets should not be parted when people need to move to supported living settings. This is a very serious issue. A survey by Anchor Housing Trust found that annually some 140,000 pets owned by older people are surrendered when they move to supported living.

Readers can encourage best practice by becoming familiar with SCAS resources (see “Resources & Further Reading” below).

You might also like to join our upcoming SCAS Webinar by Professor Sam Hurn, who will discuss the findings of her SCAS-funded study investigating the implications of care home pet policies for the health and wellbeing of elderly individuals and their companion animals. Book your ticket here (a recording is available to registered participants).

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“There’s never been a cat like Freddie”

The Bob Harvey Award was created in memory of Bob and his little dog, Darcie. However, the bond between people and their cats can be equally strong.

SCAS Chair, Dr. Elizabeth Ormerod (BVMS), shares the story of Edith Thompson and Freddie the cat:

Edith and Derek Thompson were an older couple who had enjoyed the companionship of dogs throughout their lives. Some months after Trudy their last dog had passed, Edith and Derek came to my surgery to thank me for having been their veterinarian and to share that they had decided not to adopt another dog as they wouldn’t be able to provide him or her with enough exercise.

This was a caring decision; they had always put their animal companions first. Had they given any thought about adopting another species I asked. No, they had no experience of others and hadn’t given any such consideration. When I suggested they think about adopting a cat they looked perplexed and responded that they’d never had a cat and didn’t think they’d get on as they were “dog people”. I explained about the need to nurture, and the health benefits of caring for companion animals. I was sure that they would develop a loving relationship with a cat, and that we had some adult cats ready for adoption if they’d like to meet them. They returned a few days later after giving this some thought. I guided them towards a middle-aged ginger boy with a gentle temperament, and they fell for him. It was a great match and a strong bond developed. During surgery visits they would wax lyrical about Freddie, their amazing cat.

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“There’s never been a cat like Freddie. He can play ping pong; he watches snooker and he can even retrieve!”

Sadly, Derek passed away a few years later. Freddie was a great comfort to Edith, and his companionship became even more important. He was someone to talk to and was her last living link with Derek. Edith lived near the surgery and would often pop in for a chat and give updates on Freddie’s accomplishments.

Then Edith became incapacitated. Her GP came to see me and explained that Edith needed to be admitted to a nursing home but was refusing to be separated from Freddie. He asked if I could get permission from a nursing home to admit Freddie. At that time, none of our local nursing homes permitted personal pets. I arranged to meet the Matrons of several homes to explain the need for Edith and Freddie to remain together.

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Fortunately, one of the Matrons was persuaded and so they were able to be in the home together. On my later visits to see them, the Matron cheerfully shared that Freddie was no bother, he was a joy.

The Marton said: “Freddie is a great comfort to Edith, he loves to snuggle up with her and be stroked. He comes into the residents’ lounge and his presence lightens our mood. He’s a great favourite with everyone. He promotes conversation – and encourages reminiscence. People talk about the animals with whom they’ve shared their lives. And visitors say he makes the place more homely. Little Freddie makes such a difference to Edith, and us all.”

– Dr Elizabeth Ormerod (BVMS)

Know of a Worthy Care Facility?

Until such practices become the norm, we need to encourage and celebrate care facilities like the one that accommodated Edith and Freddie.

The Society for Companion Animal Studies (SCAS) and Fostering Compassion created this special award in memory of Bob Harvey and his beloved dog Darcie. Each year the award will be presented to a care home, hospice, hospital, or care facility that has done above and beyond the call of duty to keep older persons and their beloved companion animals together.

Do you know of a care facility worthy of consideration for the 2024 Bob Harvey Award?

If so, download a nomination form and tell us all about their good work!

Resources & Further Reading

Gee NR, Mueller MK, Curl AL. Human-Animal Interaction and Older Adults: An Overview. Frontiers in Psychology. 2017 doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01416.

International Federation on Ageing Report: Companion Animals and the Health of Older Persons. Download report here.

The SCAS Code of Practice in AAI explains how companion animals can be safely introduced to health and social care facilities: AAI Code of Practice (UK) | SCAS

The SCAS Submission to the Commission on Loneliness: The Role of Companion Animals in Mitigating Loneliness and in Supporting Healthy Ageing. Download report here.

The SCAS-funded SAFE Toolkit provides a checklist for the introduction of various species to care facilities for older people.

Follow us on FB and Twitter (@SCASuk), and be sure to retweet posts from us and our partners on #PetsInHousing

SCAS is the UK’s leading human-companion animal bond organisation through funding research, providing education, raising awareness, encouraging best practice, and influencing the development of policies and practices that support the human-companion animal bond. For more details check out our website at

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2 thoughts on “The Importance of Keeping Older People and Their Companion Animals Together: The Bob Harvey Award

  1. angela1313 says:

    On either side of me my neighbors are 90 and 86 respectively, They share Midnight, a former neighborhood stray who attached himself to them both. He definitely helps keep them going, especially the gentleman who doesn’t get out much. He crosses my yard so I get to keep an eye on him but it’s obvious he’s well cared for.

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