Companion animals are wonderful company for older people - but they can also present a hazard.
Late last year, my elderly Nanna was standing in her front garden when an exuberant pet dog was inadvertently released from a neighbour's property.
The dog, over the moon to be let out, raced across the (fortunately quiet) road, and jumped up on Nanna, who fell back onto some pot plants.
She seemed to recover okay, but over the next few days the pain worsened and her mobility decreased, x-rays revealing a fracture of her spine.
It was a genuine accident, and Nanna bears no ill will to the dog or its owners.
But she's been in hospital for two months and she's now learning how to walk again, with the aid of a team of dedicated health care workers and a special brace.
I've not been able to visit her due to COVID-19 restrictions, so please indulge me for a moment: Hi, Nanna! I'm looking forward to seeing you soon.
The week Nanna fell, my dad was walking our dog when he was bowled over by a group of three Labradors who were enthusiastically chasing a ball.
He sustained some significant injuries, also requiring medical treatment.
Meanwhile, I was tripped over by my three-legged cat Hero when he raced down the hallway at top speed in a fit of poophoria and dashed straight between my legs.
Freaked out by the sight of me falling, he bolted, leaving me on the floor.
Fortunately, both Hero and I were uninjured, just very surprised.
I want to be very clear: none of us were intentional victims.
But accidents do happen when animals and people collide, with consequences varying from minor to serious.
Studies have shown that companion animals are good for people - they can provide a reason for exercise, decrease feelings of loneliness, increase social interaction and may have positive effects on blood pressure and other health parameters.
... accidents do happen when animals and people collide ...
So how do we hang on to all of these benefits while reducing the risks to older people?
As a veterinarian, I believe it comes down to ensuring that dogs are well-trained and kept on leash when there are vulnerable people about (especially kids and old people).
It also helps to be mindful of the location of animals.
A collar with a bell can let you know they are approaching.
Keeping bowls, litter trays and pet beds out of thoroughfares can reduce trip hazards.
Some of my clients use toddler gates to confine animals to parts of the house at certain times, for example when hosting visitors.
Susan Kurrle, Sydney University Curran Professor in Health Care of Older People, specialist geriatrician and star of the ABC's Emmy Award-winning Old People's Home for Four Year Olds, led a study on falls in older people that involved pets some years ago.
That study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found that the mean age of older people involved in pet-related falls was 81, and the majority were female.
Professor Kurrle said that there were a number of steps that older people could take to minimise the risk of pet-related falls, including training dogs not to pull on leads, keeping a good hold on a fence or railing in the presence of dogs so you don't get knocked over, and wearing sensible, non-slip footwear.
"I think most people would agree that the benefits of pet ownership far outweigh the negatives," she said.
Fortunately, my family agrees.
Dr Anne Quain BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (Animal Welfare), Dip ECAWBM (AWSEL) is a lecturer at the Sydney School of Veterinary Science and a practising veterinarian.