All the dogs I’ve ever owned or fostered (there’ve been quite a few) have lived to a ripe old age and have had quite the happy and comfortable life. As someone who loves everything about an old dog, I’m gratified to see the growing number of people seeking out senior dogs for adoption in order to offer them a good home and future, however limited that future may be.
A headline in the Washington Post this year acknowledged that more and more folks in the U.S.A. are adopting really old dogs. To me, this is wonderful news! Why? Just as the tendency is for adoptive parents to want a new baby as opposed to an older child, so do most adoptive pet parents want a brand new playful, roly-poly puppy. This means that older dogs that lose their homes for one reason or another are quite literally, left out in the cold.
But that trend is changing, at least in the United States. This is important because adopting a senior dog could very well save its life. Animal shelters are chronically overcrowded and older dogs are usually the first to be euthanized if they’re not adopted by a specific time. If you’ve been considering opening your home to a pet in need of a good one, please don’t overlook or disregard senior dogs for adoption, as you may very well be saving a life that hasn’t been fully lived yet.
Why Would A Senior Dog Be Homeless?
There are many different reasons why older dogs lose their homes. Typically, the problem lies not with the dog, but with the owner or family that is giving up the animal. Some folks buy or adopt a pet on impulse without really making a commitment, then don’t want the responsibility after the novelty wears off.
Sometimes it’s a change in the family situation such as a new baby in the home; or the person mainly responsible for the dog’s love and care goes away to college or moves away. Perhaps the owner needs to relocate to a place that doesn’t allow pets, or a change in his or her work schedule doesn’t allow time for decent pet care. Maybe a child or other family member develops allergies; or a new boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t like the dog, or thinks it’s overprotective. The death of the dog’s owner could be the reason, if that person didn’t arrange for a new guardian.
Whatever the cause of an older dog being up for adoption (whether in a shelter, rescue organization, or advertised by the owner), there are many better reasons to open your home to one!
Why It’s A Great Idea To Adopt A Senior Dog
- Apart from the very good reason that you might well be saving your new best friend’s life, choosing to open your home and life to a senior dog is a sign that you are undeniably a good and generous person. You don’t really know the animal’s full history, and you realize that your time together is limited; Yet you still decide to adopt an older animal in order to make the remainder of his or her years happy and full of love – given on both sides.
- Physically, an older dog has already developed into the body shape, size, and fur-length he’s going to be for the rest of his life. So no matter if he’s purebred, or has a mixture of six or seven different breeds in his genetic makeup, what you see is what you get. (No surprises down the road, like when you adopt a poodle-mix puppy and find out soon enough he’s more of a labradoodle!) You can also easily find out if he’s a breed that sheds fur or not.
- Not only is a senior dog fully developed physically, but his ‘personality’ is as well. This means that you get to pick and choose the personality that best fits your own. Sometimes all this takes is a gentle petting and a long look into one another’s eyes. If you do feel a connection to a certain animal, can you see taking this pet for a walk in your neighborhood or on your favorite nature trail? Can you see him in your back yard or snuggled up against you on the couch watching T.V.? Can you see him excitedly welcoming you home after a long work day? If so, chances are good that he’ll fit right in.
- Puppies are sweet, adorable and very good at making us laugh; but as many of us know, they are also a lot of hard work! Potty and obedience training an excitable puppy can be challenging tasks, as can dealing with the pup’s uncontrollable urge to chew everything in sight. However, when you bring a senior dog home, most of the work has already been done. Though there may be the occasional ‘accident’ as he adjusts to his surroundings, for the most part you can look forward to your new addition settling in quietly and non-destructively.
- Although regular exercise is always important for a dog at any age, the mellowed-out senior canine requires much less than a younger dog or a rambunctious puppy. But don’t expect him to be happy being a couch potato. Older dogs do need regular, gentle exercise to keep muscles and joints healthy. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or park several times a week or a visit to the river for a swim before the football game starts will keep your senior boy very happy.
- You can teach an old dog new tricks. Just because he’s been around the block a few times doesn’t mean that an older pet isn’t up for learning new tricks or embarking on new adventures. If you want to teach him how to catch a Frisbee or fetch the remote, go right ahead. Even if he’s never seen a boat, if you want to take him fishing, he’ll be in doggie heaven if you ease him into it. If he was a smart dog in his prime, he’ll be smart now.
- Leaving a new puppy alone in the house uncrated is usually asking for trouble. Given their fondness for mischief, you’re likely to come home to a room in shambles. An older dog on the other hand, though preferring to be by his master’s side, is usually fine being left alone with a chew toy and perhaps a ‘security blanket’, especially when he realizes that when you leave him alone, you will come back.
- Most all senior dogs for adoption come with any history of health problems, if they have them. Whereas puppy problems can be unpredictable as the pup grows, you’ll already know what special care a senior dog needs and whether you’ll be willing and able to support those needs.
- Your newly adopted senior is already an inherently faithful friend and is ready to transfer his canine devotion to you. This may sound strange, but I know this from experience. While a puppy brought into a new good home is often wildly joyful, a senior dog in a new, good home is grateful. Make no mistake, he still has a ton of love left to give!
Senior Dogs For Adoption ~ Programs And Organizations
This is a family based program started in May 1997. It is a comprehensive guide for anyone interested in adopting a senior dog, covering everything from basic health care for senior dogs to financial assistance for pet guardians.
Even if you’re ‘on the fence’ about taking on the responsibilities of an older dog, you can peruse their top 10 reasons to adopt a senior dog and review the most FAQ about senior dog adoption; And don’t forget to read the heart-warming Best Adoption Stories.
If you have decided that adopting a senior dog (or even fostering one) is definitely for you, The Senior Dogs Project can point you in the right direction!
This organization focuses mainly on the German Shepherd breed, specifically those with limited life expectancy. The goals of this honorable institution include rescuing German Shepherds from immediate danger of euthanasia in animal shelters, or any other life threatening situations.
The animal is then placed in a warm and loving home environment, where the pet can live out the rest of its life happily, with love, support and comfort.
The largest non-profit pet adoption website in North America, Adopt A Pet makes it easy to find the perfect senior dog for you. After you fill in your location, if you have preferences for such things as breed, gender, size, or even color, it’s all taken into account before the search begins.
Would you be good at caring for an older dog with special needs, or would you be willing to take on a bonded pair of canine seniors? Matching the needs of senior pets to the needs of the loving pet parents is a specialty of Adopt A Pet.
A Match Made In Heaven
Few creatures on our planet are as faithful, sweet, and venerable as an old dog. For those of us willing to take the plunge and adopt one, we are (in essence) agreeing to provide a warm and loving home environment to a new friend who gratefully regards us as a hero.
Our new pet’s time left on Earth may be limited, but it is by no means less precious; In fact, it’s more precious, since your senior dog is that much closer to Heaven.
There’s a special place in Heaven too, for those who choose to make a senior dog’s later years golden.
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