As far as I’m concerned, you only need one reason to adopt an old dog – there’s no greater feeling in the world.
If you need more, keep reading.
It is difficult to find the words to adequately convey how I feel when I bring a new oldie into my home, and into my heart. I’m proud of being a compassionate person, someone who knows their main purpose in life is to care for homeless and abandoned animals. The fact that my soul is nourished by being the guardian of dogs in their golden years, makes me proud.
Alright enough about me.
Seeing that it’s November and “Adopt a Senior Pet Month” it’s a great time to talk a bit about why animals of any age end up in shelters.
It’s not because they have a problem or are a problem
Humans surrender (sometimes dump) animals for a variety of reasons, some valid, most not, but all heartbreaking. Any behaviour issues are a direct result of no/inadequate training, socialisation or enrichment on the part of the guardian.
Excuses (sorry, reasons) why animals end up in shelters
- No time
- Change in work schedule
- Kids off to college and no one left to care for the animal
- Change in lifestyle
- Moving and no pets allowed
- Not cute anymore
- Doesn’t match the carpet (yes it is a reason)
- Doesn’t get along with the other dog/pets
- Wife is pregnant
- Guardian died and no one else is willing or able to take the animal
- Can’t afford the vet bills
- Leaving an abusive situation
- Illness/lengthy hospital stay/nursing home
A bit of a rant
Of course many of these reasons are legitimate, and I can’t help but feel sadness for anyone forced to part with a much loved companion. The rest are copouts. I may sound harsh, but that’s the way it is. Pets are seen by many as disposable, when they’ve had enough they return them much like a sweater they don’t care for anymore.
I volunteered for a long time at a local shelter, and heard the excuses. I will never forget watching a woman casually dump her cat because of “allergies” then play with the cats in the cages. She probably got more emotional returning a pair of shoes.
Okay, so what’s so great about adopting an old dog?
It’s good for the souls
It’s good for your soul and good for theirs. For me this is the best reason.
Old is not dead
There is something about the images words like “old” or “senior” bring to many a mind. Shrivelled up, dried up, shuffling along, sleeping all day, can barely move.
You and I may not see that, but sadly many do.
I was at the beach yesterday and watched a beautiful 9 year old Staffy run like a lunatic, chasing a stick and having the time of her life. Because of her age she was “classed” as a senior, but there was nothing remotely old about that girl.
What you see is what you get
I have literally lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people tell me, their dog is much bigger than they expected or wanted. When you adopt mature animals there are no mysteries about what their adult size, personality, energy level, or grooming needs will be.
A senior dog will likely have some training, and that includes housetraining. He may have forgotten some of it due to circumstances, but a few days (if that) in a home with a schedule and structure, and he’ll remember everything he knew.
Look at it like this…the chance to do a bit of training will be a great bonding opportunity, and provide him with some mental stimulation.
Your possessions will not be mistaken for chew toys
A senior is well past the destructive chewing phase, so your favourite chair legs should remain intact.
Find your match
One thing that isn’t taken into consideration often enough, is a dog’s energy level. I’ve been meeting all kinds of super high energy seniors lately, so if active is what you want, you’ll find a senior to suit. If you’re more of a quiet stroll in the park type, you’ll also find your perfect match.
They fit right in
Mature animals often have an easier time fitting into a home that includes other animals, because they learn and respect boundaries more quickly and are eager to bond with their new families. I must add this brief thought – it’s natural for any rescued animal to need some time to adjust, so please give them that time.
You’ll save a life
Older dogs are often overlooked in shelters, and believe me, it’s sad to watch. With puppies and kittens killed every day in shelters across the country, what chance do you think an older dog has of making it out of there alive? How wonderful to have the opportunity to, literally, save a life.
You’ll enjoy uninterrupted sleep
Unlike the puppy that has to go out during the night for pee breaks, and cries because he misses his littermates, your old dog will get himself settled in his new bed and sleep.
In my experience they know when they’re being given a chance at happiness, and they’re grateful for it.
A friend for life
No explanation needed.
I may be a cheerleader for senior dog adoption, but I know there are concerns.
Handling behaviour issues
As I just mentioned, shelters kill healthy and adoptable puppies and kittens without batting an eyelid, how long do you think a badly behaved dog would last? Because of that, it is unlikely you will adopt a dog with serious issues. Adopting from a foster based rescue means their dogs are living in homes, training and behaviour issues are being addressed, and you’ll know their likes, dislikes, and anything that may need brushing up on.
Your dog may have a few housetraining issues at the beginning. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t trained, it just might mean the shelter was short on volunteers, so he had to pee and poop in his kennel.
The day I brought Red home, she peed in her brand new bed. How was she supposed to know she was going to be taken out often enough? It didn’t take her long to figure that out.
Surely they’ll have health issues!
Old does not mean sick, old means they’ve reached the number that says “senior.” Many old dogs are in great health, and many young dogs are not. All the seniors I know are healthy, and while it’s true Red has health problems, they’re nothing that can’t be managed.
On the other hand Jack, the first young dog we’ve ever had (around 4ish), underwent major spinal surgery after becoming suddenly paralysed two months ago.
See, no guarantees!
I’m not in a position to comment on anyone’s financial situation, so whether or not you can afford vet bills is for you to decide. I can say as a general observation, the average person will find money for what they want. A neighbour of mine often talks about what she can’t afford, but it doesn’t stop her from visiting the clubhouse 2 or 3 nights a week and spending a small fortune.
Health insurance for a senior dog may not be an option for whatever reason, so this is what I recommend. Choose a denomination of coin or bill, and at the end of each day take all of them out of your pocket or wallet and put them in a jar, to be used strictly for vet bills. You’d be surprised how quickly it adds up.
If you can’t adopt can you foster?
If taking on the responsibility of a dog full time is not something you can do at the moment, would you consider fostering?? Shelters and rescue groups are in desperate need of foster homes, and you can choose the length of time you’re available. This article on Why You Should Foster an Old Dog has all the information you need.
Why you should adopt an old dog – conclusion
I hope this has been a bit of an eye opener for you, and has gotten you thinking. I believe you should adopt an old dog because you’re kind and compassionate, and they deserve a home with people to love them, in the last years of their life.
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