By Amanda Huggett Hofland
Muffin was my family’s dog for 15 years. She was a mutt my dad found in his work parking lot, who he fed and eventually brought home.
When Muffin started getting older, we had to adapt to her new needs though. Earlier in her life, we used hand signals along with verbal commands for sit, stay and come without really realizing it. But once we realized she was losing her hearing, we relied on those signals. She would watch for our wave to come and a palm faced out to stay. Then, when we realized she was almost deaf, but found out she could hear loud, sharp noises, my mother would bang on a pan with a spoon to get her attention in the yard. Inside, she could still feel vibrations on the floor, so we’d stomp to get her attention.
Despite a few things we had to do adapt, Muffin was always a loving member of our family. “When Muffin’s eyes started to get cataracts, I touched her and hugged her more to communicate with her and to reassure that we were still there for her,” my mom, Elinor, remembers. “For all her years of devotion and taking care of us, now it was our turn to take care of her. “
November is Senior Dog Adoption Month. These amazing, older, animals still have lots of love to give, no matter their age. Followers of this blog already know and love Cleo, and I believe that more people should experience the joys of owning and adopting senior animals.
Why a Senior Dog?
Why should you adopt a senior dog? For starters, you know exactly what you’re getting into. Puppies are full of crazy antics and haven’t really grown into their true personalities yet, but a senior dog is exactly who he is.
Senior dogs are often calmer too, and are ideal for people with a slow-paced similar lifestyle, those that have small living quarters, or for those who might be seniors themselves! Older dogs require less exercise, so are great additions for those that don’t have as much time to devote to playing or walking, or for those that physically are unable to. They can be great with kids too, as they’re often more patient and less rambunctious. Bonus: They’re often already housebroken and trained!
Senior dogs can also be great teachers for younger dogs! In fact, at the Pure Mutts Animal Sanctuary near Houston, their senior dogs show new pups how to act. “For instance, at the sanctuary when a new dog arrives, they must be accepted by the pack and find his or her own position within its hierarchy,” explained Priyanka Johri, founder of the sanctuary. The senior dogs will train the puppies how to use the doggie door and how to behave around other dogs. Boy (one of the seniors) will actually use his snout to push the puppies through the doggie door to teach them how to go in and out of the home.”
These dogs can be soothing too! Johri says that if a visitor is going through difficult times emotionally, Boy will pick up on it and provide solace and companionship by sitting with them quietly and laying his head in their laps.
Overlooked for Age
Elizabeth Arvahi, a volunteer at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, reinforces the fact that many senior dogs are overlooked when it comes to getting adopted. “Puppies and kittens go like candy, but the seniors are more like brussel sprouts; very few are interested,” she said.
Fortunately, several shelters, rescues and animal organization are working to raise awareness. Some are even offering discounts on senior dog adoptions in honor of this month’s holiday.
One large retailer looking to make a difference is Petco during this month’s National Adoption Weekend, where guests that attend will have the opportunity to interact with senior pets and learn how to properly care for their physical, mental, social and emotional needs.
“Adopting a senior pet can be the best decision a person can make, especially since it can be a life saving act for the pet,” Petco’s press release stated. “Shelters are overcrowded and, unfortunately, according to the ASPCA, older dogs are among the first to be euthanized if they aren’t adopted in a timely manner.”
Owners of senior dogs generally have nothing but praise for the experience. My family will certainly attest to that. The few times my family did adopt puppies or kittens, we were constantly running after them because of all the mischief they managed to get themselves in. It can be exhausting!
Shannon Blood, a PR and social media manager in Arizona, is another happy senior dog owner. She adopted a senior pug named Clarence from her local pug rescue in February. “He is the light of my life,” she says. “As my dog walker affirms, he looks at me with adoration and gratitude. He has enhanced my life so much. Despite his health problems (he is deaf, blind and has chronic ear and eye problems), he is one of the best decisions I have ever made. His name is Clarence, and he has given me far more than I could ever give him. I would highly recommend adopting a senior dog to anyone. They are truly sweet. All dogs deserve to live their last few years the best way possible!”
Second Chances for Seniors
This isn’t to say that life with a senior dog will have no bumps in the road. As animals and humans age, there are more health issues, so you have to be ready and willing to accept that with an older dog they may need more care. Some things are really simple, like giving a bit of medication or relying on hand signals to communicate, but for what you get back from the animal, it is so worth it.
The next time you’re looking for your furry friend, remember that cute little puppy more than likely will get adopted with or without you, but that senior doggie probably won’t. And all our golden years are best lived when we’re in a safe, loving environment. So, please, give a senior a chance!
This guest post is from Amanda Huggett Hofland, a contributor to the dogIDs.com blog. Visit www.dogids.com/blog.