DIGNITY Project – The Remarkable Story of Skylar & Barb

Started in April 2014, the DIGNITY project has photographed some 60 senior dogs across Nova Scotia to help raise awareness of the challenges facing elderly canines, their (often) senior owners and to aid ElderDog Canada. 

With photography completed earlier this year, the design of materials using the images of our models “paying it forward” is well underway.

Our 24th release from the project is Skylar, a remarkable 9 year old Irish Setter who had the luck to be found by, and to find, just the right person at just the right time. 

Some nine years ago, a therapist recommended Barb, Skylar’s owner, welcome a dog into her life to help her heal from, and cope with, a life-altering trauma and the crippling PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) it had triggered.

Little did Barb know that the bouncing 10 week old bundle of Irish Setter that entered her life would need her as much as she needed him. It was rapidly discovered that Skylar was coping with a life-threatening illness – an illness that had his veterinarian recommending euthanasia.

That being said, her reasons for going against such advice some 9 years ago are best served by her own words:

“I have PTSD and, at the time, even the everyday things in life were hard to get through. There were some people who had given up on me – and quite frankly, I’d given up on myself. 

But here I was with a pup that a vet wanted me to give up on, so I figured we would get through things together.” 

While Skylar’s seen a multitude of resulting health issue over his years, none have fazed him. His attention is focused on Barb and while his health continues to decline, he and Barb make the very most of every single day – including taking to, and dominating, many a show ring, 

Over the years, their teamwork has seen them take titles across the disciplines of obedience, rally, field and agility – even as a senior. Skylar recently strutted his stuff to secure an award that saw the audience on their feet. 

Looking back over their years together, Barb reflects, “If Skylar could beat a death sentence, then maybe, just maybe, I could start living without being afraid of my own shadow. Skylar gave me the hope and strength to push through and prove that what was said to be impossible for me was actually positive.”

Skylar’s resilience and natural showmanship was readily apparent during his shoot at the Clayton Park Parkland senior’s facility in January. In addition to carrying himself like a natural in front of the lens, he had residents (literally) lined up behind the camera to spend ‘hands-on‘ time with him – and he loved every minute of it. 

The following quote from Barb best describes what Skylar has brought to his world – and what his brethren, both young and old, do for those that need them, even if only for crucial minutes a day, globally:

“The power of four paws and a cold nose is greater than any drug around.”

We’d like to thank all those businesses and individuals who’ve supported the project over the last two years – and those we know are, or will, do so in it’s next stages.  

Please contact ElderDog Canada or Robert MacLellan if you or your organization would like to assist. 


Ardra and Rob