By Teri Finneman
Editors Note: This is the seventh story in an eight-part series featuring North Dakotans age 80 or older still making a difference in their communities.
FARGO – An excitable large black dog is no match for 84-year-old Jean Albertson.
The Fargo woman can pull right back with the best of them.
Every Thursday afternoon, Albertson volunteers as a dog walker at the FM Humane Society. No matter the dog’s size, she’s game to get them some much-needed exercise and fresh air.
“Obviously I love dogs,” Albertson said of why she’s volunteered there for the past five years. “I don’t have one now, so I get to see nine or 10 different dogs every week. I love to walk and I need to walk, so it gets me out in the fresh air with somebody to talk to when I’m walking.”
FM Humane Society Executive Director Nukhet Hendricks called Albertson “incredible” and said she’s a reliable volunteer who shows up no matter what the weather conditions.
“The dogs love her. She loves the dogs, and I think that it is kind of like a volunteer match made in heaven,” Hendricks said. “You can see how dedicated she is, how much she loves the animals.”
It’s the same reason why Albertson volunteers to walk the dogs at Bethany Homes in Fargo on Wednesdays. She speaks fondly of her time spent with furry friends Marcus and Sasha.
“Those dogs don’t pull,” she said with a laugh. “They hardly need to be on a leash.”
Kathy Fritz of Bethany Homes, whose office is near the volunteer kiosk, said the dogs love Albertson.
“It’s like the dogs can just sense when she comes in the building,” Fritz said. “They bark, and they bark, and they bark. They are so happy to see her.’
Fritz said Albertson has “such a delightful personality,” and she hopes to have Albertson’s energy when she’s that age.
Dog walking is just the beginning of Albertson’s activities. She also participates in the 5K at the Fargo Marathon, rings bells for the Salvation Army, volunteers at her church and helps out at Churches United for the Homeless in Moorhead every month.
“It’s just kind of a fun thing to do,” she said of preparing and serving food at Churches United. “I’ve got plenty of time. There’s no reason why I can’t do that. It’s nice to visit with the residents a bit. As they come through the line, they’re so appreciative.”
In her free time, she stays active riding her bike and cross country skiing, as well as playing golf and tennis.
She thinks people in their 80s get a second wind at life, or at least have more time to be active.
“I just love to get out and see people and see what’s going on in the community,” Albertson said of why she volunteers. “I just felt that, since I had the time, I should be doing something constructive rather than sitting around playing cards or reading.”