The Five Myths of Having a Senior Dog

Three years ago, while looking across the room at my old dog, I had five fast responses to anyone fearful of loving a senior dog pop into my head. Reading through them this weekend, I still think they hold up and make good examples of why you should never let your fear of heartbreak prevent you from having an old dog in your life.

After our Cleo passed late last year, I have had many encounters with older dogs and each time they made me laugh and shake my head at these myths. 

Some people think having an old dog is the opposite of fun. I beg to differ with them. 

Check out these five myth-busters:

Myth 1. They're boring.

Fact: How can you be bored when you have this face around keeping you in stitches?

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Myth 2. They're expensive.

Fact: We eat the same foods as she does, only minus the kibble. Even her pills are delivered via high-grade liverwurst that we share.

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The "adorkable" senior dog named Bunny

Choosing to adopt an older dog can be rewarding in many ways. For my friend Shelah Barr, owner of Happy Hounds Massage, the little old dog she met transformed into an adorkable bundle of curiosity and seeker of sunshine.
 
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In Shelah's own words, this is what happened:
I first laid eyes on Bunny in 2009. I had gotten calls from a few volunteers about a dog who had just arrived at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue who seemed to be in pain. I can't believe what I saw when I got there - what a mess! She had been on the streets for a while, then someone had shaved her entire head, ears and body, but left the long curly foxtail encrusted fur on her legs and paws. She had a rash, was hopping off one back leg and goose-stepping with the front ones, trying to get someone to pay attention to her. What a clown. Anyway, I checked her out and had my suspicions about her knees so after a quick visit to the vet the next thing I know she's had surgery on both knees and I'm rehabbing her! And now I can't get rid of her. 
 
She's the oddest dog I've ever had. She has immense curiosity about people and things - she walked up to a guy jackhammering with genuine interest in the jackhammer and him! She's not afraid of anything, loves big dogs, thinks cats are the best thing ever, and has the strangest penchant for sitting and laying down in driveways. She's recently expanded her proclivities to crosswalks, wheelchair ramps, and a nice cozy space right next to the active streetcar tracks. She even plopped down in front of the neighbor's house where the driveway was going to be built. People like to theorize why she does that, but I think we'll never really know why. Just another mystery that is Bunny!
 
You never know who you'll fall in love with, but I think Shelah now definitely knows why senior dogs rule. 
 

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My vacation included cleaning sleepy eyes, offering affection, and sausage bits to stray and pet dogs in Turkey

Going on vacation should be fun. When you have a dog, if you cannot take them with you, leaving them behind can be tough emotionally. It's also not fun if your separation is distressing for both of you. When you love a dog like I do, and your furry best friend is aging rapidly, you choose to stay with them every chance you can rather than leave them, even for an hour. You can question my relationship with her and call the depth of my attachment unhealthy, but I can look back now and say with confidence that I squeezed every ounce out of our limited time together.

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Up, Up, and Away!

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Angus the first SFFD search and rescue dog

Dogs will put their lives on the line for us humans, and it never ceases to amaze me. With my own dog, I did not take for granted her willingness to protect and watch over me. I see search and rescue dogs and just want to give them a treat, a pet or anything that is allowed, because as you can see from the photo here, when these dogs are on duty you have to respect their boundaries.

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Maddie's Fund President Rich Avanzino will retire this summer

There are few people in animal welfare I admire more than this guy, Richard Avanzino. When I first started writing about dogs after adopting my first dog from the San Francisco SPCA, I learned about a man who fought for the life of a little dog named Sido. As the President of the SF/SPCA in 1979, Rich stood firmly against the current California law that allowed someone to “destroy an animal like a piece of furniture." Thanks in part to his efforts, the law was changed and Sido was given a second chance.

"San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jay Pfotenhauer ruled that the right to dispose of property after death does not extend to killing a living creature."

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There is no doubt if my big dog Cleo had been around at the time of Sido, she would have been euthanized, but fortunately perceptions and practices changed, thanks to the work of Rich, the SF/SPCA and Maddie's Fund. I will always be grateful to them.

Maddie’s Fund® announced that its president, Rich Avanzino, will retire this summer [...]

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Nine ways an old dog shows that they love you

It has been such a gift to have a dog grow old with me. Adopting her as an adult made our experiences interesting, and after our years together, I'm convinced that senior dogs rule. 

Spending time together I learned about her likes and dislikes. We discovered her favorite, over-the-moon, reward. Hint, liver or sardines, in either order, or even better, together.

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Living with my first old dog had me experiencing life in a new and unexpected way, giving me a point of view that helped me better understand my aging parents.

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Sweet Senior Girl: After Our Dog’s Diabetes Diagnosis

Four years ago I heard about diabetic alert dogs from Dee Bogetti. I knew how common it was for dogs to be diagnosed with Cushing's disease, but until my dog's own diagnosis, I really had no idea dogs could many older dogs become diabetic.

The Grey Muzzle Organization asked me to share our story about what life was like with an older diabetic dog. The following is a little about how we discovered her diabetes, and how we adjusted our life to keep our sweet girl living as vibrant a life as possible.

One lesson that still remains huge for me is how much our time together mirrored my diabetic father's experiences. I will be forever grateful to my sweet senior dog for opening my eyes to the similarities between her life with diabetes and my elderly father's. Thank you Cleo.

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Read more about how we handled our dog's diabetes diagnosis [...]

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Resetting your course: How a dog's memory is helping me navigate

Pet loss isn't unique. How we manage it is. Losing my beloved dog hit me hard. It has thrown my writing life for a curve. She was my primary inspiration for topics, and motivation for striking up conversations. More than three months have passed and it's been a challenge without my canine compass.

There is a feeling of lethargy that is foreign to me. Moving through the day sometimes feels awkward, like wearing an ill-fitting sweater or jacket with too tight sleeves that ride up your wrists. Our dog had my full attention for years and guided much of my writing for the past five.

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How do you reset your course when it feels like the captain is missing?

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Just because she's pretty doesn't mean this dog wants your attention

It may come as a surprise to you but some dogs aren't interested in being the center of attention. Reactive dogs like Teddy need their space. When she's ready, she'll seek you out.

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For a dog lover, it can be hard on your feelings when you're turned down by a pretty dog, but since spending time with Teddy here, when she decides you're okay by her, and you are allowed to give her a scratch or two on the butt -- it felt like winning a prize! Being allowed to give Teddy some affectionate attention was a wonderful sensation the first time, and many years later, the excitement hasn't diminished.

Have you ever had a reactive dog offer you their affection, or the chance to make physical contact with them? How did it feel?  

 

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New scientific evidence shows pet therapy does help cancer patients

NEW YORK, Jan. 13, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Therapy dogs may improve the emotional well-being of some cancer patients, according to results of a clinical study, the first to document the benefits of animal-assisted therapy in adult cancer patients. The research was made available this week in the Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology.

"Thanks to this rigorously designed study, we now have strong evidence that pet therapy is an effective tool to help cancer patients get through challenging treatments," said Gabriel A. Sara, MD, Medical Director, Infusion Suite at Mount Sinai Roosevelt, and Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

It's encouraging to know there is strong evidence showing the real emotional boost animal-assisted therapy gives to adult cancer patients. This study was released after a million people on Facebook uploaded photos of dogs to cheer up a young cancer patient in Phoenix, Arizona.

Yep, a million. His mom Kristen started an event page in December asking people to share dog photos because they made her son smile on the days he didn't have a therapy dog visiting him at Phoenix Children's Hospital where he is receiving treatment.

There has been a lot of support by people everywhere, including Gabby Giffords, from Tucson. Knowing how my dog made me smile, and the rush of oxytocin I felt with her, you'll find her sweet photo representing Grouchy Puppy well wishes.  

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Photo: @kris10lyons  Anthony and his mom Kristen on Rachel Ray 

Learn more how you can make Anthony smile.

Post of a photo of your own dog on the event page Photo Doggies for Anthony, and when you share on Twitter use the hashtag #PhotoDoggiesforAnthony

 

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Future service dogs positively influence kids with autism

Everybody benefits from spending time with dogs! This new Georgia program allows service dogs in training to get socialized by kids with autism, while giving these youngsters a chance to be positively influenced by a dog.

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From Today

“It’s just amazing,” said Elizabeth Dulin, co-founder and head of the Lionheart School, which serves students with autism in Alpharetta, Georgia. “When our kids interact with the dogs, we see reduced anxiety levels. ... They become calm and focused.”

One 11-year-old student named Max can quickly identify all seven of the puppies romping around the school. How can he name them so effortlessly when they look so similar? That’s easy.

“Because I love them,” Max told WXIA-TV in Atlanta.

And the impact of the dogs on the children doesn't end there.

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Thanks to all the dogs we love...

We are a pack of dog lovers influenced by the dogs we love to be better people.

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This week our Grouchy Puppy morning question on Facebook asked, "#ThankfulThursday We appreciate all the new dog loving friends we've made in 2014 because of our Cleo. Because of your dog(s), what's one new reason you're thankful this year?"

The following is how readers responded. In the comments below, I'd love to see what you're thankful for this year[...]

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Giving Fearlessly to Senior Dogs During Their Golden Years

When you experience the love, devotion and joy having an older dog in your life, it's as if you've glimpsed heaven on earth. I will always remember my dog Cleo and how she made me feel as she became a senior dog.

As a way to honoring her positive influence over us, we're sharing on Grouchy Puppy beautiful images and stories involving the relationship between people and their older dogs, from Project Unconditional.

Read the following story about an amazing woman, who I admire greatly, dedicated to making a difference in the lives of senior dogs.  

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Photo: © Jane Sobel Klonsky, Project Unconditional

The Golden Years

Patty Stanton’s first experience with the joy of senior dogs was watching her childhood dog, Happy, age along with her. Decades later when it came time to adopt a dog for her own family, she luckily found Muttville Senior Dog Rescue in San Francisco.

When it comes to adopting a senior dog, the decision is easy for Patty. “They come with manners,” she says, “and what you see is what you get.” The gratefulness of adult dogs is apparent from the beginning too, and Patty relishes the unique opportunity to shepherd senior dogs through their golden years. Patty now serves on the board of directors at Muttville where she can continue her passionate commitment to creating better lives for senior dogs through rescue, foster, adoption, hospice, and education.

Project Unconditional by Jane Sobel Klonsky is a collection of photos and stories focusing on the powerful relationships between people and their older dogs.

Visit Project Unconditional for more photographs and information, and keep up with the project on Facebook.

 

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