A new charitable initiative has launched to help rehome some of the thousands of dogs from around New Zealand rescued annually from abuse and neglect.

The campaign will bring together pet charities in a bid to have empty nesters ‘replace’ their children with rescue dogs.

Cormac van den Hoofdakker, spokesperson for the Pedigree Adoption Drive Charitable Trust, says the campaign will target the parents of adult children or those suffering from what is known as Empty Nest Syndrome.

The interactive website helps match dogs with the physical characteristics of kids who have moved out.

“At this time of year, thousands of Kiwi parents will be feeling the effects of seeing their children leave home for the first time as they head to university or to start work, says van den Hoofdakker.

“There are also just as many rescue dogs in need of rehoming throughout New Zealand, we want to do all we can to bring them together,” he says.

Auckland psychologist Sara Chatwin says the impact of having an empty nest on our mental health should not be underestimated.

Chatwin says empty nest syndrome can manifest itself in a number of ways with some feeling depressed or anxious when there are less people in the home.

“Having spent much of their life looking after children and caring for them, parents can have difficulties coming to terms with a house that isn’t so busy and frenetic.

“All of a sudden their role as caregiver is significantly diminished and people can struggle with loneliness and depressive symptoms.

“They will often think long and hard about ‘what next’ to keep them physically and mentally active and getting a K9 companion can help answer that question,” she says.

Chatwin says a new pet dog can allow the empty nester to shift the focus off themselves, their issues and feelings of emptiness.

She says choosing a dog that has attributes of a child who has moved out can also have significant benefits.

“I suspect that if a dog embodies characteristics of a family member; long hair, a type of physique, it could really feel like a great fit in the family.

“Often people are looking for a replacement and are attracted to things they’re used to (in regards to looks) or that remind them of certain people,” says Chatwin.

The campaign will run for a month and van den Hoofdakker says there is also a need for foster parents to help socialise the dogs which have been saved from abusive environments.

“For those that can’t commit to taking a dog permanently, helping to socialise the dog through fostering it in a caring home is a key part in preparing it for long term adoption.

For more information on the Pedigree Child Replacement Programme see here

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