Senior and Special-Needs Animals
The Forgotten and “Easily Passed-Over” Populations
If you have ever felt “not quite up to par” or remember the last time your heart was broken, you know how middle-aged or senior animals feel when they find themselves at an animal sanctuary.
Older dogs lose their homes for many reasons…most of them having nothing to do with problems the dog has, but rather with the problems of the person surrendering the dog. Typical reasons older dogs become homeless include: the death of a guardian, not enough time for the dog, change in work schedule, new baby, need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed, kids going off to college, allergies, change in “lifestyle”, or the prospective spouse doesn’t like the dogs.
By adopting an older dog, we make a statement about compassion and the value of life at all ages. Just as a puppy has his whole life in front of him, so does an older dog have his life in front of him. You can give that older dog the best years of his life while at the same time bringing a wonderful addition into your family. Older dogs are good at giving love. They are grateful for the second chance they’ve been given.
Older dogs usually have had some training, both in obedience and house manners. An older dog can be much easier to train than a puppy. Many rescued dogs were trained in their past; with a little encouragement it will come right back to them. The key to house training is not age, but your patience and consistency in training the loved one.
Older dogs have more or less the same medical needs as younger dogs. At Caring for Creatures, all basic medical needs are provided during the dog’s life, as well as additional expenses should they occur. Veterinary attention and medication are needed at all ages and may or may not be more costly for an older dog. The same can be said for humans. With a health assessment, you will know what age-related conditions are present and you can take appropriate measures to address them.
Now, I am over 50 and for four years, until late 2007, shared my home
with the incredible, magnificent “Obie” who I adopted
October 2004, from Caring For Creatures Animal Sanctuary at age 12. He
didn’t mind how old I was, so I don’t mind how old he was. The time that I
had with Obie was one of the richest, most rewarding experiences of my life because, as anyone who has ever owned a senior animal will understand, love knows no age.
Older dogs are more settled. You know what you are getting because they have grown into their shape and personality. Older dogs can focus well because they’ve mellowed. They are calmer and quieter. They have learned what is expected of them. Older dogs know what “no” means, because if they hadn’t, they would not have gotten to be “older dogs." They are easy to assess for behavior and
temperament. Older dogs, especially those who have known it, appreciate love and attention and quickly learn what is expected of them to gain and keep that love and attention. The older dog is not trying to prove his dominance over humans, and is ready to fit himself into the human family “pack."
They will do whatever is necessary to make that fit as comfortable as possible.
Maybe you are reluctant to adopt a senior dog because you fear that your time with your new best friend will be short, bringing that painful time of loss closer. But the privilege of loving a senior dog makes every single day special, as you and your companion share love, friendship, and a special relationship that grows stronger with the knowledge that you have given an older dog a second chance at life.
The love that grows from this knowledge is stronger than the pain of eventual separation. Adopting an older dog is life-altering. You will gain a faithful companion. Senior dogs and senior people bring out the best in each other. Old dogs make great friends! You will have shared your life with a great spirit and that experience will profoundly affect your life for the
better. Consider that there are never any guarantees about length of life with any dog. Quality of time together can matter a great deal more than quantity. The knowledge that you have changed the life of a single animal in need will fill you with both satisfaction and peace. You won’t have to wonder if your efforts made a difference, you will know it.
Spend some time with senior and special needs animals. Even in a very short time, you won’t think about how old the animals are, or what special needs they might have, but whether you are worthy of making a home for such a special animal companion. And be assured that you will be embarking on the most enriching, rewarding adventure of your life.