Okay, I realize it’s not Sunday, but I feel a confession coming on. I love my weasel with all my heart, but he was a CHALLENGE (to say the least) for the first year that we had him. Granted the last 8 months have been a breeze, but I’m still scarred from the potty training, the separation anxiety, obedience training, and house destroying. But I HAD to have a puppy… I’m sure I had my reasons, but funnily enough, now I don’t know what those reasons were. What I can remember is he was just so darn cute, but since, I’ve also had some of my heart strings tugged for senior dogs that I never used to give a second thought. I decided to ask a girlfriend, whom I know has adopted her fair share of senior dogs before, a couple of questions that I thought people considering adoption may want to know before they decide on a dog.
Q: When did you adopt your first senior and what made you go that way over adopting a younger dog?
A: My own two dogs were getting up in age and I needed an energy level that matched theirs. They could no longer play non-stop with other dogs, but now just wanted to hang out with other dogs.
Q: Is it hard knowing that you won’t have a senior dog as long as say a puppy, or does that not factor in to your willingness to adopt them?
A: It is somewhat difficult knowing you won’t have them for very long, but that is never a factor in our willingness to adopt them, especially when you know how hard it is for seniors to find homes. It is nice to give them a loving environment for the end of their lives, to tend to all their needs and just be there for them.
Q: What is your favourite thing about senior dogs?
A: Once a dog gets up in age, you begin to appreciate the mellower kind of energy they can provide. They come completely trained and don’t require as much exercise and stimulation as a younger dog.
Q: Is there anything people should know about, or do as soon as they rescue/adopt a senior dog?
A: While they can still be young at heart and want to run/play etc. like a younger dog, they can have some physical limitations with mobility i.e. arthritis that will need to be managed. For example- they might want to play ball for a very long period of time, but shouldn’t as they could pay for it shortly thereafter, or the next day with stiff joints. You need to know when to stop and make that decision for them. I also made some adjustments to the back steps making them safer for my seniors.
Q: What are some senior friendly games and activities you and your dogs participate in?
A: We pretty much do the same things we’d do with a younger dog, but not to the same extent. Easy and short walks and playing fetch in the back yard are the basics. If they are able, going on group dog walks and heading back early if necessary. We’ve had 2-3 seniors at one time and usually our seniors do not have the same physical energy level as each other and so each one will get a different type of exercise for a different duration.
Q: What has been the most challenging part about owning senior dogs?
A: Not having them as long as we would like and always wishing we’d had them their entire lives. Depending on their health issues there will likely be some vet bills and medications to administer.
Q: What would you say to someone who only wants to adopt a puppy?
A: Great! If you want a pup, go for it. Each person is looking for something different- some want pups, some want older dogs. I prefer the ready-made senior, who comes with manners, is house trained, one who has a calm energy and a gentle disposition.
If that doesn’t convince you that seniors may be a viable choice- I don’t know what will. But I did hear some very alarming stats over the past few weeks. Only 25% of all dogs admitted into a shelter actually get adopted. Of that 25% only a very small percentage belongs to senior adoptions. Unfortunately, depending on where they end up, they may be euthanized for being un-adoptable. Thanks to people like my girlfriend, seniors are given very special homes who will probably erase any bad memories of their life prior, or of the family that gave them up because they were moving, or the dog wasn’t cute anymore, or the dog nipped a child, etc. Her willingness to overlook the fact that she that she will not have them very long, but focus more on the life she can provide for them is what will make their lives fully enriched and filled with joy and love. Her compassion is unyielding, and her heart ever expanding.