I have rescued and fostered many pets over the years. Keeping my pets healthy and happy is my number one priority.
Should I Adopt a Senior Dog?
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 haircut. 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 criterion.
After an overnight with her, I kind of found myself liking her. But she was OLD and she had lumps in her mammary 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.
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 mammary 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.
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.
Here are a few 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 housebroken, 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.
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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.
Who Should Consider Adopting a Senior Dog?
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.
Things a Senior Dog May Need
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 housebroken.
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: susiesseniordogs.com
- Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary: ofsds.org
- Peace and Paws Dog Rescue: peaceandpaws.org
- The Mr. Mo Project: mrmoproject.com
- The Roland Senior Dog Rescue Gang: rolandrescuegang.com
- Senior Dog Haven And Hospice: 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.
Bringing Our Senior Dog Home
As Lucy began to realize that she was actually "home," her personality began to shine. She loved to play ball and would eagerly bring 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 housetrained, 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 will be 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.
© 2016 L C David
L C David (author) from Florida on April 23, 2018:
There is nothing like the love of a rescued pet. And the love of a rescued senior might be even a little bit sweeter. I'm typing this as my Lucy is snoring away beside me. I'm so happy to know that I'm making the last years of her life happy and comfortable. She will know nothing but love for the rest of her days. Thanks for adopting and for helping your dog through her medical issues. You're a wonderful person for doing that!
Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 22, 2018:
I am so glad that you took, Lucy. I am a firm believer in adopting not shopping, as you say. I adopted a five year old beagle from a shelter She had been abused and abandoned. A week or so after I got her has was having violent seizures, up to 4 a day. Our vet treated her for epilepsy. On medication she was doing much better. A year and a half ago we found out she has gall bladder disease. So she is on two medications. Now she is developing lumps on her body. I have never for one second regretted adopting, Cookie. She is now over ten years old. My wife and I love her so much.
L C David (author) from Florida on January 29, 2017:
Thank you so much. She's still with me, a lovely dog and my constant companion!
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on January 27, 2017:
This is a beautiful article. I loved your description of your dog and how you both bonded so well together.
L C David (author) from Florida on September 13, 2016:
That's a great way to look at it. They are also much calmer and make great cuddlers.
Valene from Missouri on September 13, 2016:
I've been thinking about doing this someday myself. Although a senior dog can be a big commitment care and health wise, one thing that is attractive to me about a senior dog is the length of time with them is shorter. I like the idea of being able to adopt many senior dogs over time, giving unwanted pets a pleasant life in their last days, especially if their previous life was not so pleasant.
L C David (author) from Florida on June 15, 2016:
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 15, 2016:
What a beautiful article, L C. It makes perfect sense, too. If senior humans deserve a shot a love and a warm home, why not senior pets?
Mo Means on May 16, 2016:
Absolutely. One of the best decisions we ever made was to take in a senior black lab. What a character!