I have a passion for senior dogs and would love to see more finding homes, so I’m going to talk about all the reasons why you should consider adopting an old dog. Naturally I have a lot of other stuff to say about it first, but if you want to get straight to my reasons, just scroll down!
Sometimes sadness overwhelms me
I used to volunteer at a shelter that had what they called “the oldies room.” It was a lovely set up where all the old dogs lived cage free. They had beds, toys and lots of attention from volunteers who had a soft spot for them…myself included.
Being right near the reception desk, potential adopters would peek in to see who was there. When they heard the world “old” many would bolt, some wouldn’t even bother going to look, while others would gush over them, then ask where the puppies were. Once in a long while a kind soul would come by and offer one a home. Of course anyone that rescues, no matter how old the animal is a star in my book, but there’s an extra big star for someone who gives an old dog a home.
That wasn’t the only scenario that made me sad. I can’t recall the number of times I saw quite elderly people with serious mobility issues come to adopt. When they looked into the oldies room they would comment the dogs were too old then ask where the younger ones were. Yes anyone is entitled to adopt any aged dog they want, but why would they want one whose needs they cannot satisfy, and overlook an older less active dog that may still need walks, but whose needs they could satisfy?
What was particularly upsetting was the attitude of the front desk staff. When people would come in and ask where the dogs were they would point them in the direction of the puppy room was as well as the kennels with the other dogs. Then with a very cavalier attitude they would say “and those are the old dogs.” They made no effort to explain there were plenty with lots of energy who could happily go hiking, or talk about the benefits of one that appreciated a more relaxed pace of life. They just dismissed them as not being worthy.
Give it some thought
Yes this is a topic that has me hopping on my soapbox with no desire to get off, but I will…soon!
Personally I think old dogs are gorgeous, but I understand why people see puppies as too cute for words and want one NOW! A sweater can be an impulse buy because as long as you keep the receipt you can exchange it or get your money back. No harm done! The same cannot be said for a living being, so I would urge you to do your research and decide if a puppy really is the right dog for you.
Raising a well behaved and happy puppy is a lot of work. They don’t train themselves and a lot of time and effort must go into their training.
If there is no one home during the day what will you do with the puppy? You cannot keep him in a crate 10-12 hours a day although many people do, but it’s not fair. Will you hire a dog walker? Enroll him in doggy daycare?
Do you have an active social life in addition to your work life? How does a puppy fit into you going from work to drinks and dinner with friends? What about those spontaneous outings you like to take?
When it’s impossible to resist the adorable face without giving it the serious thought it deserves, nobody wins. Returning the dog means heartbreak for the people involved, especially the children, and the longer you waited to give him back, especially without training him, the more unadoptable he becomes. This and similar scenarios do not lead to a very happy ending for the pup.
Why I do it
I have a soft spot for senior dogs and my only requirement for adoption is the older the better. Why? My soul is nourished by being the guardian of dogs in their golden years.
Alright enough about me. Let’s talk a little 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.
Excuses, and a few legitimate reasons, why animals end up in shelters
- Owners have no time
- Sharing life with a dog is more work than they are able or willing to put in
- 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
- Allergies, sometimes a case of “sudden onset”
A bit of a rant
Of course a few 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 cop outs. 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 cats in the cages. Hey lady, didn’t you say you had severe allergies! She probably got more emotional returning a pair of shoes.
Okay, we’re finally here, the reasons why you should consider adopting an old dog
It’s good for the souls
It’s good for your soul and good for theirs. What could be better than giving an old dog a home in his final years, months or even weeks. For me no other reason is needed.
Old is not dead
There is something about the images words like “old” or “senior” bring to many a mind. Shriveled up, dried up, shuffling along, sleeping all day, can barely move, not even worthy of attention. You and I may not see that, but sadly many do. Look at the way much of our society views elderly people? It stands to reason some of that attitude will extend to animals.
I was at the beach recently 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, they’re too energetic… 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 house training. 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 while providing mental stimulation at the same time. Believe me, old dogs can absolutely learn new tricks.
Your possessions will not be mistaken for chew toys
A senior is well past the destructive chewing phase, so your favourite chair legs or pair of shoes should remain intact.
Perfect companion for the active lifestyle
You read it right! What, you thought all old dogs just want to sleep all day? Okay some do, but old is just a number and plenty of dogs classed as “senior” simply because of the date on the calendar, have more energy than a lot of us! If you’re ready for a hike, a canoe ride or some other adventure, you can find a seasoned companion to be right by your side.
Perfect companion for the inactive lifestyle
On the flip side, if the closest you want to come to a hiking trail is seeing a picture of it, there are plenty of senior dogs who feel the same way.
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.
Older dogs generally have some kind of training, they just might need a refresher if they haven’t lived in a home for awhile. It’s unlikely they have severe behaviour problems as most shelters would have killed them quite quickly. Harsh but true. 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 they may need brushing up on.
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 litter mates, your old dog will get himself settled into his new bed and sleep.
They will love you like crazy
Depending on a senior dog’s background he may have a few scars from a bit of a tough past, but they don’t tend to wallow in it. They live in the moment and will spend each of those moments loving you.
Do you have commitment issues?
You really want a dog but aren’t sure you are able to devote the next (potentially) 10+ years to one. Adopting an older dog could be the answer.
They make excellent therapy dogs
The boisterous and wild times of their youth are mostly behind them (some of course are still as rowdy as ever!!), so the calmer senior dogs make excellent therapy dogs. A few of the old dogs at the shelter I mentioned above were regularly taken to visit seniors in nursing homes. The dogs loved getting out and about, and needless to say the residents were overjoyed at the chance to spend some quality time with a fur baby.
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 alive? How wonderful to have the opportunity to, literally, save a life. The picture on the right is my sweetie Red. She was blind and obese when her owners dumped her at an animal control facility, where she was about to be killed. Staff there would sometimes contact the shelter where I volunteered to ask if they would take some old dogs, which they did and Red was one of them. That was 8 1/2 years ago and we’ve been together ever since.
You can teach an old dog new tricks
I do hate to sound like a cliche but….I don’t want you to dismiss adopting an older dog because you believe they cannot be trained or learn anything new. They absolutely can!
Adopting an old dog shows and teaches compassion, and that life has value no matter the age.
In my experience they know when they’re being given a chance at happiness, and they’re grateful for it.
A perfect companion for the more mature humans among us
Many shelters offer a “senior for senior” program where they encourage the adoption of senior dogs by senior humans. A win-win for everyone I’d say!
A loving friend for life
No explanation needed.
I may be a cheerleader for senior dog adoption, but I know there are concerns.
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 though!
Surely they’ll have health problems!
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. It’s true the older we all get the greater the chance of developing health issues. Red, my 16 1/2 year old has her share, but our younger dog Jack became paralysed at around 4ish (don’t know his exact age) and had to have very expensive spinal surgery.
See, no guarantees!
I am 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 matters, but even that might not be enough funds in some cases.
Health insurance for a senior dog may not be an option due to monthly cost or lack of sufficient coverage, so here is an idea that may help. 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.
Buying medications from your vet’s office can be significantly more expensive than buying online. One of Red’s medication is $108.00 at the vet, but it’s $34.00 online. That is a massive savings for me.
Taking good care of our dogs from the day we bring them home can significantly reduce health issues later in life. Yes that still applies to old dogs. You’d be surprised how much a good quality diet, exercise, mental stimulation, supplements and a loving home can contribute to their health and well being.
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, or you can’t afford to shoulder all the potential expenses, 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, even becoming a permanent foster carer. What’s great is how many shelters and groups help with the bills. This article on Why You Should Foster an Old Dog has all the information you need.
Why you should consider adopting an old dog – conclusion
I guess you can see how much I love old dogs, and why I encourage everyone to consider welcoming one into their home. If it’s not for you, and I understand it may not be, what about supporting a senior dog rescue group? They could always use financial donations or supplies to help them with the lifelong care of their residents.
Have you adopted a senior dog? Drop by my Facebook page and like and share your stories, photos, advice and questions.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for parents of senior dogs. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.