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Cuddle Club seniors get together for monthly social with four-legged friends

Cuddle Club pairs senior citizens with senior dogs in San Francisco
Cuddle Club pairs senior citizens with senior dogs in San Francisco 03:08

SAN FRANCISCO -- A monthly gathering of senior citizens in San Francisco is giving them a chance to catch up and enjoy a few treats along with some ear-scratchings and belly rubs.

After a rough couple of years, 77-year-old Kay Livingston is off to see some old friends. Just like her, their bodies are a little slower and they may be a tad grayer. But their tails are still wagging.

"To be able to feel a warm body, a heartbeat, lots of kisses, that's absolutely terrific," Livingston said.

Livingston is part of a San Francisco group called the Cuddle Club, a place that combines senior dogs with senior citizens.

Once a month, they meet at the Muttville Senior Dog Rescue for an hour of pure relaxation with man's oldest friend. All you need is to be at least 62 years old or nine in dog years.

Livingston lost her beloved pug Oliver in 2005. She would have gotten another dog but then her health deteriorated. In 2020, she suffered a debilitating stroke that landed her in a medically-induced coma for more than a year.

"It's been a rough time," she said, choking back tears.

That is why cuddles from these senior dogs are just what the doctor ordered.

"I need some dog love," she said.

Angela Di Martino, Muttville's community engagement manager, said the Cuddle Club is a win-win for both humans and their furry friends.

"Our dogs get a whole hour of cuddles," she said, adding that many of the Cuddle Club members, most of whom either can't afford or can't take care of one, are dog lovers.

The shelter has teamed up with Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, an organization that helps alleviate loneliness among seniors in the Bay Area.

Cathy Michalec, the group's executive director, said even though her members go through routine loneliness screenings, many of them are embarrassed to admit that they're feeling isolated.

"It is such a perfect fit," she said. "Can you imagine a senior citizen and a senior dog get together and they get to cuddle?"

As for Livingston, an hour with two dozen cute mutts was the perfect reminder that sometimes the best therapy is a little dose of puppy love.

"It's better than sex," she said. "Am I allowed to say that?"

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