In our hurry up, I'm always late world, spending time with an older dog can be the perfect counterbalance.
Time together may help you gain a thoughtful approach to the next hour of the day, or maybe the whole week ahead. After a few one-on-one minutes with an older dog, I have left motivated and empowered, focused more the softer side of life.
When I met Sarge, all I saw was a big handsome dog who had the sweetest manners. His sugar face spoke of a gentleness and thoughtful personality. I never would have guessed that this dog had been thin, filthy and unloved.
It's moments like these that get my imagination going. I think about the thousands of available adoptable dogs, each with their own unique stories. Each dog offers a new family the chance to learn something powerful about themselves. My own adopted dog positively influenced our lives from the day she arrived.
Choosing to adopt an older dog can bring you greater awareness about your own weaknesses, and strengths.
When I adopted my big old dog, she began as a reserved lady. Similar to Sarge, she was under-weight from stress but somehow maintained unbelievable table manners. I wouldn't have blamed her for gobbling food or trying take anything that might give her some comfort.
My empathy for her emotional health allowed me to approach our new life together in ways that kept us on a path of wonderful discoveries. She, like Sarge, blossomed under the steady warmth and love being offered every minute of every hour. I didn't know if she'd ever fully look to me as trusted family, but she did, and that is a feeling I will always cherish.
We shared a mutual joy discovering how to communicate with each other. When I'd introduce a word or phrase for something, maybe a food she'd never had before, both our eyes lit up when she learned. The satisfaction you get when you set a dog up for success in their new life with you, in a new forever home, is immeasurable.
Imagine the shared joy of discovery
When I look back on adopting our dog, it makes so much sense now. We discovered how much we loved giving a dog the chance of a happy final chapter in their life. We had moments of mutual joy that is special between humans and dogs. Just getting to know each other brought us both to laughter. Yes, dogs laugh!
If you're a curious person, love dogs, and enjoy discovery then consider adoption. Head to your local shelter, humane society or breed specific rescue, or find them on social media tonight!
Last week I met a new Muttville mutt named Greta. She is a german shepherd, all legs, and currently skin and bones. Given our immediate mutual affection, I have a feeling she'll be plumping up soon. I can still smell the after-breakfast chicken treats I gave her on my fingers.
Having had a large Shepherd-Husky dog, I was drawn to Greta as soon as I saw her fuzzy gangly body. She loped across the doggy loft as soon as the door opened and I wheeled in the yellow cleaning bucket. Her concerned brown eyes locked on my movements, tracking the mop to the bucket and back to the floor. I was glad to see she was not spooked by my morning cleaning of the loft.
After the year I've spent volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, and experiencing the amazing personalities of small older dogs for the first time, I know what my future is going to include.
If my bones are shaky, we'll walk slow. Whether on my lap, or next to me on the couch, we can gossip and debate whenever the mood strikes. We can be each other's alarm clock, and reminder to get up. I might even call my little senior dog Siri.
Yes, like Sarah Lilly, my future self plans to grow old and cranky with a little dog always by my side:
Sarah Lilly, who just turned 90, and her 12-year-old Lhasa apso-poodle mix, Katy, have been inseparable for nearly two years. They wake up by 7 each morning, eat breakfast, take a walk and spend much of the day lavishly doting on the other. When in their favorite recliner, for example, Lilly strokes Katy’s soft, tan, loosely curled fur, and the cuddly 12-pound dog expresses her appreciation with wet kisses.
“She’s such a blessing,” said Lilly, adding that before Katy came into her life she had become a homebody after being scared by several falls. Now, she takes Katy for at least two walks a day and to visit a neighbor caring for his ailing mother.
Read all the ways older pets can improve your health, or your parents health, in this wonderful story about Sarah from Ohio and The Dispatch.
I bet now you understand why I believe senior dogs rule.
Volunteering at a senior dog rescue has exposed me to all sorts of dogs arriving for different reasons. Some dogs are strays, others have the misfortune of having their person pass away unexpectedly. Everyone agrees that all the dogs are loved no matter where they come from, or why they are with us at this advanced age.
Something that gets people to dance around is the subject of dogs who get surrendered by a family. I've heard people take absolute positions on this. They feel that if you decide to have a dog then you better keep that dog no matter what. These people have little empathy or compassion for anyone giving up a dog.
I have a more nuanced response thanks to dogs like Otis.
When I was three years old my parents rehomed an older dog. At the time, we lived in the high desert of Southern California, in a tiny town of cinder block houses. Her family knew ours and my mom thought the dog would fit in. She did, so much so that I stopped playing with my dolls and only wanted to be with her. She was a big, fluffy Samoyed dog who I believed needed me to brush her, every chance I could.
I could sit for hours on the dirty concrete in our car port, surrounded by potential playthings, and only care about her well-being in that hot arid climate. I felt so calm next to her dusty fluffy bear-like body. I would smile into her panting face. Why care that my doll could walk with a push of a button, when I had an open mouth breathing lion to care for? I had a wild beast as my best friend, who smelled like a stuffed animal.
We were inseparable. I never played with dolls again. When I look back fifty years later, I can see this was no coincidence but fate. I had been destined to be a dog lover.
Enter Chispa. During a recent morning session volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I met this lovely lady that you see here. In less than a minute, she brought back memories of my Samoyed. Softly petting Chispa between the eyes, letting her creep closer as she accepted my love, I felt a familiar warmth pass between us.
Without hesitation I leaned in to feel her fluff with my face. Not only did she let me, she closed her eyes and settled in for whatever else I had in store. Is my response common to other older dog lovers? Do we all have this imprint that stays with us? You read the phrase, "dog print on my heart" but this sensation I feel is at a molecular level.
My time volunteering at Muttville is always satisfying, but moments with dogs like Chispa are restorative. I hope someone out there with extra love finds her. She will repay you with the sweetest breath, the kindest eyes, and a quietude to balance the noisy world of today.
What is so special about dogs, especially old dogs, is their ability to pull you out of a funk. You know, when you feel blue or maybe just out of sorts.
Dogs seem to do just the right thing, at the right time. It doesn't have to be a dramatic move, but it could be they simply need you to take them out to go to the bathroom or give them a few scratches in a place they can't reach.
Dogs have a way of getting you to focus less on whatever is bothering you and more on them. Their sweet but steady demeanor reflects a serenity that can quiet the noisiest mind.
Introverts would do well to spend time with a senior dog. Someone prone to depression could benefit from time with a dog.
What is so wonderful about a dog is the simplicity of your time together, and interactions. They love you without reservation. Their needs are not complex.
A dog has no hidden agenda or ego. They offer a pure form of companionship that can change your life for the better.
The hardest thing is quieting your own internal dialogue so that you can hear and understand what a dog is saying to you.
If you can be quiet then no doubt you'll learn about how dogs communicate, and as you spend time with them don't be surprised to feel their positive influence
A little known secret in the medical and canine community is that older dogs have super powers. Yep, senior dogs have the power to heal you, to make you feel tremendous!
If you've never experienced life around an older dog, you might be skeptical of these claims, but hear me out. I am speaking from recent experiences with senior dogs, not just remembering my life with my old dog.
Look at this image above, and tell me you can't imagine how it must feel to get that many close snuggles at one time. Not frantic puppy love, but slow and steady warmth.
I'm so thrilled Sherri Franklin was named a CNN Hero of the year for her work with Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. Her mission to raise awareness about old dogs languishing in shelters, and being seen as undeserving of having a good home, seems to finally be resonating with a wide audience.
Seeing the many celebrities openly share their affection for old dogs on camera helps bring attention to these sugar faces. Empathy is learned. It's important to show how special senior dogs are, and why they deserve our care.
Every week while taking care of little guys like Shiro here, I have added to my studies about life and dogs. It has been an eye-opening learning experience.
Here are a few things I've learned caring about old dogs this year:
When you take care of an old dog, you might get repaid in kisses, warm cuddles, or just happy eyes
Taking an old dog for a walk can translate into you both trotting or actually running an entire city block
Old dogs enjoy quiet time and alone time, just like us, but it doesn't mean they don't want you around
Little old dogs can be very good at asking for attention, sometimes more effectively than their larger cohorts
Just because a dog is considered old doesn't mean they can't be as playful and silly as a puppy
Old dogs have been able to make me laugh first thing in the morning, something not many people have accomplished. If you get a chance to study with older dogs, and by that I mean spend some quality one-on-one time together, do it! You won't regret it.
It's been months since I've been getting up early to take the morning shift with Muttville mutts, and even when it was raining, I haven't regretted volunteering for a minute. I never know what my lesson will be each day from these furry old professors, and I love it!!
Something older dogs seem to have in spades is the ability to shrug off their troubles. Have you seen a dog shake off water? For me, that is the perfect visual of what it looks like. When my dog was uncomfortable, and then wasn't, she would shake her body like she'd just had a bath or had run out of the ocean.
This physical twisting and spinning of her big fluffy body looked like she was throwing off the stress of the moment. She shook off the stress in a vigorous shrug.
Spending time with Muttville mutts every week reminds me of this lesson from my dog. I'll see a dog get into the personal space of another dog trying to sleep. The resting dog will respond by getting up and moving away, or giving a short 'get away, you're bothering me' bark at the disturbance.
The rebuffed dog will get the hint, and move over to the side while he shakes off the stress from the moment. Depending on the dog, and my body language, he may decide that I will give him the attention he is seeking.
Notice Arnold here? He was a master at not letting the stress get to him! He slid into any open space where affection and attention was being offered. I laughed out loud watching his eyes light up when he saw an opportunity across the doggy loft!
This is what I love about dogs, and volunteering at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I get these little reminders of how simple it can be to move away from stress, and toward happiness. Dogs make great demonstrators of stress management, a skill we can use during the holidays and beyond.
What simple lesson has a dog taught you, or reminded you of that you'd forgotten?
You know what's so great about dogs? They don't care about the holidays. Dogs don't know about Cyber Monday sales. They only see the new toy or smell the freshly opened bag of treats.
Dogs have a way of getting us emotional humans to focus more on their funny antics, and less on those door-buster commercials running on television. Sure, they'll sit next to us on the couch to watch You've Got Mail for the tenth time, but only to get the belly rubs.
When I arrive for my morning shift at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I never really know who will be there to greet me. The older dogs that come through the doors are from many different backgrounds. They are in various stages of emotional and physical health. Some dogs pass through quickly, bunking in the doggy loft only a couple of weeks, other dogs get scooped up and placed in a foster home or adopted before I see them.
Whether a dog is there a day, or years, all of the dogs become part of the Muttville family. They are loved by everyone associated with the nonprofit. Maybe that is why I never really feel bad when a familiar dog disappears from the group? I know with certainty they are in good hands.
Have you ever had that one dog? You know, a special dog who connected with you in a way none before them had? Thanks to the world of dog people that I occupy, I know that I am not alone in having this special experience.
My special dog got me to start a blog, and jump into social media as a dog advocate ten years ago. She showed me all the ways a dog could enrich your life, and that there is value of living in the present. Caring for and about my dog into and through her senior years, taught me patience and empathy for my aging parents.
With her passing, memories of our days together motivated me to get out of the house and down to Muttville Senior Dog Rescue this year. Each morning I'm there I get a dose of mutt magic, in exchange for doing their laundry, mopping and walks around Rescue Row.
"Daisy and Sharon have an understanding"
For now, I'm content to care for them and help play matchmaker, but when I look in their eyes, I know that one of these days I will be ready to open my home to another dog. For now, I'm grateful to have this wonderful place in my town that lets me in the door every week, especially as I mark today, the two year anniversary of my dog's passing.
When you spend time with older dogs, it feels like you've been given a free meditation lesson. Hanging with Murphy here in the doggy loft at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I literally could feel his soothing aura embrace me while I sat next to him on a bed.
Older dogs offer you something special, often intangible.