Adopting a dog became a monumental decision for my husband and I who had been petless throughout our marriage. The possibility of caring for a dog brought months of discussion and planning. Family chats teemed with avid promises from three children that they’d help with everything. (Yes, despite outside advice, I still fell for the “everything” promise.) Adopting a dog brought the likelihood of dirtier floors, hairier upholstery, less flexibility, and unavoidable trips outside despite the weather. Having a dog meant less money in our pockets in order to have a clean, healthy, legal pet. Were we ready? We were ready to give our children the experience of caring for and loving a dog of their own. We had an ideal situation with a fenced yard, a safe home, and someone present every day.
With the initial decision behind us, our next step was choosing the type of dog most compatible with our family. My husband wanted a small to medium-sized dog. I wanted one that didn’t shed much. The kids, of course, wanted a puppy. After narrowing down preferences, we opted for a type of spaniel, a breed I’d grown up with and adored. The puppy debate fell flat since the training inevitably would fall to me, and I did not want to start from scratch. And, honestly, I did not want a 15-year commitment of caring for a family pet into the empty-nester stage of life. It would be a sad transition for the children and for the dog during the college years and beyond. I lived it once and couldn’t bear to repeat it with my children.
So, after lengthy consideration, we decided to adopt a mid-life or senior dog. Everyone was comfortable with adopting a dog who was mostly trained and needed a suitable home in which to live out the remainder of its life. The closer we came to finding our senior dog, the more excited we all got about our decision. It became less about the logistics and all about unleashing our love and acceptance on the rejected.
For us, the pros outweighed the cons. Most likely, an older dog would have some habits needing redirection. Signs of aging, neglect or abuse could be more evident. They are past the baby-cute age and might be scruffy, unidentifiable mutts. On the flip side, they usually have some training. Mature dogs are fully-grown, which means no unforeseen growth spurts. With a little grooming and training, they only improve. You can deal with any signs of health issues upfront. The biggest pro: Providing a good home to a pet who probably has been disregarded only because of age.
I support good, responsible breeders and their clients. I understand buyers of puppies. But, I encourage people to adopt from shelters, foster organizations, and homes. I’ll go a step further and ask people to consider adopting an older pet.
I saw our Cocker Spaniel, Cooper, online. It was love at first sight. He had the sweetest face with big, brown eyes. When I inquired about him, I was surprised he was available still. The foster caretaker was surprised someone specifically was interested in him. A dog I thought couldn’t possibly still be adoptable was the rejected one. Why? He was not young.
My phone call came just as Cooper had arrived back from another Pet Adoption Weekend at a local pet store. He had been overlooked for many weeks by shoppers searching for puppies, or at least, younger dogs. Not one person took an interest in Cooper. He watched fellow foster dogs get adopted while he made weekly trips between the foster home and the pet store. One by one, they left. He stayed.
Cooper initially landed at the foster home after a local no-kill shelter called in a favor of a foster caretaker. Authorities had removed Cooper from his original home due to abuse and neglect. Despite great care at the shelter, he was not thriving. He refused to eat. He trembled continuously. His eyes remained bloodshot due to stress. I cannot imagine seeing my dog in that state. In our home, he became a content, relaxed couch potato living for snacks, tug-of-war, and car rides.
I am grateful for that shelter staff person who went above his duty to ensure Cooper received the best care in the interim. He could’ve disregarded Cooper’s terror and continued on with his duties to so many others, but he paused, noticed a frightened dog, and gave him a chance by proactively finding him a foster home. I’m also thankful for foster caretakers who open their homes to transitional animals.
Older pets aren’t only available at shelters and foster homes, but also from their owners through ads or word-of-mouth. They’re ideal pets who need a new home for various reasons such as a move, lack of finances, or an owner’s health challenges. Don’t discount these pets because of their ages. Give yourself the gift of a wonderful, settled companion and give them the gift of a loving home.
I have never regretted choosing my senior dog. Whatever pet is in my future, I guarantee my heart will lead me to one in its golden years.
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