Seniors are Super! Save a Special Pet This Month!

I knew I shouldn’t be looking at the website, but it is a compulsion for me… keeping an eye on the local animal shelters to see who is looking for a home.

Not that I needed another dog; I already had two scrappy terrier mixes (both rescues). But there was a dog at the shelter and I went to check her out. And that’s where things got interesting.

Because while I didn’t feel a “connection” to the dog I went to see, shelter volunteers were walking another dog who looked up at me, “smiled” with a toy held in her jaws and melted on the floor when I stopped to pet her. This floppy, happy, goofy dog was 10 years old: a senior. What was I thinking?

Pepper came home with us and I quickly discovered that the same qualities that had made my earlier rescues a good fit were just the same with a senior dog.

Keep in mind that “senior” is used loosely. Just as some humans flinch at being considered “over the hill” when they turn 50, health care advances mean many of us are living longer, healthier lives. This is true for both our canine and feline companions as well.

Veterinarians consider large or giant breeds “senior” at an earlier age than toy or miniature breeds. For most dogs, “senior” is about 7 years of age. Regardless, any fully grown dog is typically going to be harder to adopt out than adorable puppies. You’ll see that at any shelter: there’s always a crowd around the puppies and kittens while gray-haired seniors may sit alone and ignored, for days, weeks or months at a time. Their chances of finding a new home just aren’t as good. (Felines are generally considered “senior” at around 8 years old.)

But there’s no reason to discount these older dogs. As The Senior Dogs Project website notes, “Older dogs lose their homes for many different reasons … most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with those of the person or family surrendering the dog.” For example, a dog may have been bought on impulse but the family no longer has the time or interest in caring for it. Add to that situations such as the death or illness of an owner, a new baby in the family, an owner moving to a location where pets are not allowed, and suddenly, a pet may need a second chance.

The Senior Dogs Project does a wonderful job explaining why senior pets deserve a second chance. I can tell you from experience that my senior girl has been nothing short of delightful. She is long past the puppy “chewing” stage and was housebroken. The shelter had spayed her, gotten her up to date on shots and provided a dental cleaning. In essence, it was like buying a “pre-owned” luxury car that the dealership had sent through for a tune up and detailing.

Was there a downside? Sure. At 10, I didn’t know how much time we’d have with her. But then again, you really don’t know how much time you have with any pet. Unforeseen illnesses or accidents can snatch even a young dog away at an early age. We had an acclimation process, but that would have been the case with any new animal. Everyone in the existing “pack” needed time to get comfortable with their new fur-sister: a calming collar and diffuser helped everyone feel calm and kept the stress level to a minimum.

Nowadays, all three dogs are seniors, they all eat the same dog food and I look after their joint health by giving them joint supplements (which are great for dogs of ALL ages.) Their energy level is less than a rambunctious puppy, which means everyone loves a good snuggle or nap, but they are still ready and raring to go for a walk.

There are just so many good reasons to adopt a senior pet; don’t overlook the senior dogs and cats who need a home. They have just as much love to give, and more of a need to be saved.

Trust me. You’ll be glad you did.

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