Now think about a senior dog. They probably move slowly. Maybe they can't run anymore. They just muster up the energy for a short trot down the hallway. They may not be so fluffy anymore and will likely be missing some teeth.
Why would you choose to adopt or foster a senior dog over a puppy? I'll tell you why I would, a senior dog isn't a spaz, can't jump up on you, won't eat your favorite leather shoes or pee on your favorite pillow. Okay in all seriousness, consider these five areas that both puppies and senior dogs have in common and you decide for yourself.
Meal time for both puppies and senior dogs is important. At all life stages a dog will need the proper nutrition. With a puppy you will likely still be learning what foods they like and whether they have any allergies or other issues. A senior dog is a little like grandpa, they like what they like and darn it if they aren't too old to change now. And also like grandpa, they will more than likely be missing some teeth. At this advanced age, what can seem difficult might be a blessing because when you discover the foods your senior dog will eat, it will take the guesswork away going forward.
Consider the energy and bounce of your dog. Being a responsible pet owner means being in a position to give dedicated play time to your buddy. If you live in the city this means taking the time to find a dog park or play group to regularly socialize your puppy too. Adopting a senior dog means your buddy will likely enjoy more face time and cuddles than romps at the park. With a slower pace, a senior dog allows you to savor each walk because you know your buddy is getting as much joy from "picking up the news" from a corner light post as they are being out on that walk.
Medical costs for a puppy or a senior dog vary. Depending on the dog they all need at various times veterinary care, examinations and lab work. With a puppy for sure there are important immunizations to get. And depending on where you live there are internal/external parasite preventative medicines to pay for. With a puppy you are looking at a life time of medical costs ahead of you that can be on average 8 to 14 years. The care for a senior dog will likely be considerably shorter than a puppy but their medical attention no less important.
Loving a mellow dog can transform your life. While the exuberance of a puppy is exciting, the heart tug felt from a long appreciative stare given by an older dog can be as forceful. I've been knocked over physically by a puppy and emotionally by my "mature" girl Cleo. Love and gratitude demonstrated by a senior rescue dog is a powerful thing. Don't underestimate the feelings it brings out in you. The end of life care you provide these dogs can transform your life as much as help theirs.
Older and wiser, and in good health. Often a senior dog that is rescued still has good health and a wonderful personality. Their problem, a common one, is simply that their owner either died or couldn't take care of them anymore. We believe that is why Cleo was surrendered to a shelter. A puppy is like a blank page and a fresh start. Giving a senior dog the chance to live out the rest of their life being loved and cared about is what we humans want too. It's that simple.
Why I believe adopting a senior dog is something we should all consider is that it provides us the opportunity to show our gratitude for all of the selfless love and companionship they've given mankind. In a family setting, caring for an older dog teaches children that end of life issues can be uplifting while still poignant. As adults with aging parents, caring for a senior dog has its own similarities and may actually help us Baby Boomers work through the many difficult emotions we face.
Choosing a puppy or a senior dog to rescue or foster is an important decision that takes a lot of thought and discussion with your family. Whatever you choose, I thank you for adopting rather than buying a dog. And I hope that when you choose to adopt, you will consider a senior dog.
For more information check out these resources:
Muttville: Rescue, education, foster and support for senior dogs