Saving a Senior

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

I’ve been a big advocate of the whole “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra for a long time. Our home is under renovation using vintage materials, I’ve got a composter in the backyard, and I shop at second-hand stores for much of my wardrobe.

I’ve realized that, in many ways, I’ve been following the same process with my pets. All my pets are someone else’s throwaways and I just adopted another dog from the local humane society.

At 9 years old, Pebbles was surrendered due to her owner’s health issues. Can you imagine leaving the only home, perhaps the only human you had ever loved, and finding yourself in a noisy, crowded, busy shelter? Every routine, every familiar object would have been stripped away, leaving you confused and desperate for reassurance.

Puppies stand a good chance at being adopted from a shelter, as do purebreds. But adult dogs, especially senior dogs, are more likely to be euthanized, as potential adopters see them as less desirable.

There are dozens of reasons to look at an adult or senior dog as your first choice. While puppies are adorable, they also come with a year (or more) of learning the basics. I was fortunate because my three dogs came home potty-trained, content to adapt to my schedule, and well past the chewing stage.

We will no doubt have power struggles as the three dogs figure out the pack structure and eventually learn that while I only have two arms, no one gets shortchanged on petting and affection. Perhaps the scariest thing (for me) is the thought that since Pebbles is a senior, our time together may be short. But that shouldn’t mean that it matters less.

Several years ago, my mother adopted an elderly Shihtzu, a puppy mill survivor, from a shelter. While Winston only shared 14 months with her, there is no doubt that the quality of life in his final year was, perhaps, the best he had ever experienced.

The day I went to the shelter and found Pebbles, dozens of people oohed and aahed over the adorable puppies and kittens. Their “cuteness quotient” was literally off the charts. But in other cages, adult dogs and cats sat waiting. Their need for a forever home is perhaps even greater, in some cases, desperate. Their reasons for ending up in the shelter are often not behavioral issues, but due to the health or financial situation of their former owners. They may be doomed through no fault of their own.

You can adopt a reduce-reuse-recycle attitude…but let’s change the context. REDUCE the number of unwanted animals by spaying or neutering your pet. RETRAIN your animal and work with professionals, if needed, to modify behaviors rather than simply giving up on a pet. (And don’t forget that some very effective pheromone therapy products are available to help you in that behavior training and adaptation period.) And for goodness sake, consider REHOMING an adult or senior animal.

Consider those three “Rs” when adding a pet to your family, and then add in one more: the REWARD of love and devotion that a senior or adult pet can share with you.

Editor’s Note: This post was so popular last year, that we decided to re-post it in honor of our senior pets. We hope you enjoyed it!

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