When you think about it, we are not so different from dogs. And as I've experienced with my aging parents in the last years of their lives, there are overlapping priorities, behaviors, and desires between older people and older dogs.
November is Senior Dog Adoption Month, and a good time to draw a few dotted lines between what I learned from parents, and my beautiful senior dog.
When you push past transparent efforts to pull on a person's heartstrings, there lies a much bigger issue, and it's serious. Old dogs are still disproportionately found at shelters. Sometimes they end up there simply because their family passed away. Other times they are discarded. I believe if people knew what they were missing they would seek older dogs out. They would care. My experiences have shown that as a dog ages, they enter a precious stage of offering valuable life lessons to us humans.
What sort of life lessons can an old dog teach you?
I'll start with a big one. Compassion. In today's world, politicians and talking heads are telling you on 24x7 news channels that every homeless person is horrible and just waiting to rob you. Yes, crime is real, but no, not every homeless person is bad, just like dogs in shelters are not bad. What is lost under these sensational headlines is the compassion and empathy for homeless people and homeless pets.
Give older dogs a chance to share their wisdom. People of all ages can learn compassion and gain empathy from an old dog. And from my experience, when you take the time to engage at their pace, your days become richer.
Simple needs win.
The older you get the less stuff you care about. Easy walks and laid back days are in order. You are at an age when you value quietude, and a warm soft bed. Savoring quality over quantity is how my dog lived her final years. She showed me every day the value of slowing down and being in the moment. Spending quiet time with her helped me be more present with my mother. I was more attuned to how my mother was feeling, and when she needed to rest.
Shorter visits, earlier nights and smaller meals make up your day. Routines become more important as we age. I loved how my senior dog knew exactly when she wanted to go for a walk each afternoon, and I loved how my dad went to the same restaurant every Thursday. They both reveled in their favorite routes. I think my mom verbalized what my dog could not about preferring smaller more frequent meals.
We humans are not so different from dogs. All of these points I bring up are things I experienced with my own senior dog, and both my parents in the last years of their lives. As I move through middle age I'm already seeing my needs and desires shifting, along the same patterns. Being around them increased my empathy a thousand-fold for life as a senior.
Man and dog are social creatures who age, and most don't want to do it alone. People and dogs respond equally to affection and compassion. We all appreciate kindness.
The positive influence from caring about, and for, older dogs is something you don't want to miss! Pass it on!