I have a soft spot for senior dogs and my only requirement for adoption is the older the better. Why? I don’t know, I just feel so good knowing I’m giving a loving home to a dog (cats too!) at the end of his or her life. I totally understand if you need more reasons so please keep reading!
Why I do it
It is difficult for me to find the words to adequately convey how I feel when I bring a new senior dog into my home, and into my heart. I’m proud of knowing my purpose 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 happy.
Alright enough about me. First 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
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. 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. 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. Shrivelled 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 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 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.
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 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 litter mates, your old dog will get himself settled into his new bed and sleep.
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. One of the shelters where I used to volunteer had a room just for old dogs, and a couple of them 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.
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.
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 they 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 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’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 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.
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 adopt a senior 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, why not consider donating to 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 senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.