Why I Adopted A Senior Dog And Why You Should Too
I didn't set out to adopt a senior dog. It wasn't even really on my mind.
I have always been an advocate of animal rescue and believe firmly that you should "adopt, not shop" when you are looking to add a pet to your family.
In the past, I have adopted adult animals because kittens and puppies almost always find homes (unless they have a medical issue). But a senior dog? Why would I do that. I had just gone through the heartbreak of losing my 17 year old rescue chow chow mix. Why would I put myself in that position again?
Then I met Lucy.
She really wasn't much to look at. A scraggly poodle-type mix, badly in need of a hair cut. She was staying with a friend who fostered pets for the city. But I wasn't looking for a little dog, let alone a senior dog.
Although on intake they had originally suggested she was three years old, it was obvious to her foster mom (and later to me and the vet) that she was more likely to be 10+.
But I was looking for a dog that wouldn't be a threat to my already established cats. Her calm personality and size assured us that she would at least meet that criteria.
After an overnight with her, I kind of found myself liking her. But she was OLD and she had lumps in her mammory glands that would need to be addressed. But she was also super snuggly, eager to please, smart and still playful. The only thing that wasn't going for her was her age.
Adoption and Love
So, we ended up adopting Lucy from the shelter and bringing her home. I borrowed money from family members to help have the lumps in her mammory glands removed.
At first I wasn't sure if I should have adopted her but my youngest child had really fallen in love with her. We talked about her age but he was still determined that this was the dog we should have.
And boy was he right.
Personality Begins To Blossom
As she begin to realize that she was actually "home" her personality began to shine. She loved to play ball and would eagerly bring little balls to you and bounce up and down excitedly until you threw them.
She was also just as happy to sit beside you or on your lap, leaning her head against you in a loving yet protective manner. Fully house-trained, she would patiently stand by the door to let us know she needed to go out and she snuggled down at our feet at night, crawling up in the morning to greet us with gentle kisses.
In short, she won our hearts.
Lucy is now healthy and happy. Her shaggy coat has grown in full and is shiny. Though there is a bit of grey around her ears and face she clearly has the heart and mind of a puppy.
I don't know how long she has with us. It may be years. It may not. But the full devotion of love and warmth and the pure joy we derive from her makes me realize that you can cram years of love into a newly adopted senior animal and that the regret only comes from wishing you had known them sooner.
Why Are There Senior Dogs In The Shelters?
Not all animals end up in a shelter because they are "bad." Many come from loving homes where circumstances changed and the dog was no longer able to stay there.
Common reasons that a senior dog may end up in the shelter:
- Family moving
- Owner becomes too sick to take care of dog
- Owner passes away
- Financial hardships such as job or home loss
These dogs are often house-broken, trained, and well-,mannered. Through no fault of their own they have found themselves in need of a new family to open up their hearts and love them.
The Other Types of Senior Rescues
There are also other senior rescues, pulled from abusive situations. Many times full-bred senior females will be rescued and placed in shelters after years spent in puppy mills--just one of many reasons to adopt, not shop.
Some have never known kindness or love but these animals are not hopeless. While they may take more time and patience than the seniors who were in loving homes, many can make a full recovery and "learn" how to be dogs again.
If you are looking for a particular breed, check with some of the rescues posted later in this article and watch for postings of puppy mill busts.
While it truly is heartbreaking, these dogs are often extremely grateful once they discover that some humans truly are out there to care for them.
What Types Of Owners Are A Good Fit For Senior Dogs
Older dogs are calm and easier to handle. Many smaller senior dogs would make perfect lap dogs.
Young Adult, Single
Young adults just starting out may benefit from a senior dog. Your busy schedule may mean you don't have time for three walks a day but senior dogs are often just as happy to curl up in their dog bed and wait for you to come home.
Many families are busy today and think that they don't have time for a pet. But the benefits of pet ownership are proven. Why not a adopt a calm, senior dog who will snuggle up next to you after a busy day? It's a natural, stress reliever!
Do you have a dog that's bored or lonely when you are gone to school or work? Adopting an older but calm and non-aggressive companion may be just what your current dog needs to feel content, even when you are away.
Preparation Needed for Senior Dogs
Adopting a senior dog has its rewards, but let's talk about what you need to know first in terms of care and attention.
Senior dogs may need extra attention in the following areas:
- Eyes and teeth may have issues. All older pets can face issues so have your family vet check them over.
- Arthritis or other pain or mobility issues. These can usually be remedied or controlled with medication.
- Other medical issues such as lumps or cysts. Your vet can evaluate and see if surgery or removal is an option.
Why You Should Adopt A Senior Dog Today
What They Are
What They Aren't
What That Means To You
Mean, Bad Dogs
You are getting a dog that's not going to cause problems or be too eager to chew up your favorite shoes. Most are content to lay in front of a warm window and watch the world go by. That doesn't mean they don't love a good toy.
Senior dogs may feel a bit traumatized if they have been in the shelter. Give them a few weeks to sort through their feelings and feel safe.
Many seniors have already been in loving homes and through no fault of their own need to be in a new home. They know commands and are house-broken.
What You See Is What You Get
Puppies Who Will Change
While everyone loves a puppy, puppy personalities are not fully evolved until they are two. With that can come some surprises in personality or behavior. Senior dogs are fully developed and their personalities are readily obvious.
Dogs Are Living Longer Than Ever
Ready To Give Up
With today's healthy foods and medical advancements, dogs are living longer than ever and are staying healthier longer, too. Your senior dog very well may have many years left of love to share.
Where Can I Find A Senior Dog To Adopt?
The first place to check is your local, county or city animal shelter. Very often they may have senior dogs available for adoption. Talk to the shelter volunteers and fosters about the dogs and about what you are looking for. These wonderful people get to know the animals personally, they often have "staff" favorites, and can truly match you up with a wonderful dog.
There are also rescue organizations dedicated to saving senior dogs. These include but are not limited to:
- Susie's Senior Dogs: http://www.susiesseniordogs.com/
- Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary: http://www.ofsds.org/index.html
- Peace and Paws Dog Rescue: http://www.peaceandpaws.org/
- The Mr. Mo Project: http://www.mrmoproject.com/
- The Roland Senior Dog Rescue Gang: http://www.rolandrescuegang.com/
- Senior Dog Haven And Hospice: http://seniordoghaven.org/
There are so many great, non-profit rescues out there dedicated to helping senior dogs find their homes. There is every type of breed and size available as well as some adorable mixed breeds.
So the next time you are considering adding to your family, please consider a senior dog.
You won't be sorry.