At every age, every stage: How dogs help us

Whenever I hear someone talk about how they are not ready for a dog and want to wait for just the right time, I wonder aloud, “when has a dog not made life better?”

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When you stop and think about how dogs fit in our lives, it feels to me like they fit into every stage and moment of my existence. When I was a child, dogs were my best friend and teacher. Later on they became my helper, and co-worker. Ten years after I adopted my first dog, and launched Grouchy Puppy, there has been a steady stream of dogs positively influencing my life. Their ability to give fearlessly to us continues to entertain, inspire, and console.

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Reasons why we should love old dogs

Why do I love old dogs so much? This is a fair question given how popular puppies always are. While I have nothing against puppies they are just not for me. Their high energy and constant need for education and monitoring is exhausting. I love all dogs very much which is why puppies keep me in a constant state of worry over their development and care. By the very fact they are in this stage of growth, any mistakes or bad habits they develop thanks to me, are mine to deal with at a later date.

Given all that described potential stress, you might guess that I have never had children or been a school teacher. I’m also the youngest amongst my siblings so my supervision skills are strictly based on managing a few people, or the occasional project at work, not the best skill set for taking on the responsibility of a puppy. However, older dogs are a whole different beast. To begin with, there is my absolute love for the oldsters.

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Having experienced my own dog going through her golden years, the affection I feel for seniors is deep. Spending weekly volunteer shifts at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue has confirmed my love for the sugar faces is not limited to my own dog. Big ones, little ones, blind ones, deaf ones, three-legged ones, terminal ones, I absolutely love all these old dogs, and I am here to tell you why!

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Senior dogs inspire: Meet Samba the Tripawd

Meet Samba. We ran into her on the streets of San Francisco where she was showing two young boys how to sit and wait for a treat. I love seeing dogs out on walks. Often I exchange a smile and a knowing “dog lover club” look with the person, or sometimes just with the dog. I wave at the dogs if they look at me, otherwise I gauge my reaction based on them. When a dog is on a mission to poop or pee in a particular place, or get to the dog park, it would be criminal to get in the way.

 

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Why We Love Older Dogs and What’s so Wonderful About Senior Dog Adoption

Do you ever see yourself in a dog’s face? Does a dog’s adoption story ever resonate with you? I’ve noticed that the older I get the more I see myself and even my daily life in the life of older dogs.

When my own dog entered her golden years I saw my parents in her daily struggles, and aging process. She showed me a lot about what they were going through with their aches and pains, slower pace, greater need for naps, and dietary changes.

I swear both my parents and my old dog shared a love for snorting at me in disbelief when I would ask them something. (In my dog’s case, it was my asking her the rhetorical question, “do you want to go for a walk.”)

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5 Great Reasons Why Senior Dogs Rule and Puppies Drool

November has turned into a favorite month thanks to the older dogs in my life. I love senior dogs more than Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce!

My excitement for this month began after we adopted my own amazing Shepherd Husky from the San Francisco SPCA in November. After we shared every “Gotcha Day” and adoptaversary each November, I loved this month a little bit more.

image from www.grouchypuppy.com

Since my big fluffy girl had to move on three years ago, I’ve been spending time every week at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue among an ever changing tide of sweet oldsters. They show me how much more fun being around well-seasoned dogs are compared to puppies! 

Curious about what makes these sugar faces so great? Read on and see for yourself  Adorable adoptable dogs ahead!!

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Older dogs teach us patience and how to fill up your love tank!

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.

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More life lessons from dogs. This time forgiveness.

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.

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I have a more nuanced response thanks to dogs like Otis.

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Dogs don't know what a holiday is, only that you're there with them

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.

 

A video posted by grouchypuppy (@grouchypuppy) on

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Older dogs offer you something special, often intangible

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.

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Older dogs offer you something special, often intangible.

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Serial senior dog adopters stay focused on happy times together even after unexpected loss

I believe strongly in the power older dogs have for enriching our lives. Opening your heart and home to senior dogs is worth the inevitable future loss. Why? That answer varies for many of us, but it could be simply that you appreciate quality over quantity. I learned this from experiences with my beloved dog. After she passed on, I miss her but the feeling of gratitude I have for the quality of time we had together overwhelms any sadness.

When a loved one passes away, their loss can knock you for a loop, even when they are showing signs their time with you is coming to a close. Imagine the devastation when two loved ones unexpectedly go within days of each other? That recently happened to long time senior dog lovers and adopters, Karl and Jessica.

If you missed them, I recommend you read their three guest posts from earlier this year, about their senior dog journey: It started with Tara, Continued with Bobo and Jameson, and their journey is Destined to Continue.

Karl and Jessica shared their sudden loss in an email, which they graciously allow me to share below. I hope you'll read it and take away the message of how the enrichment you get from caring for and about older dogs, far outweighs any pain.

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An update to our Senior Dog Journey

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Helping older dogs live their final chapter knowing they are loved

Dogs enrich our lives in a million different ways, at every age of their life, and ours. When I decided to start volunteering at a senior dog rescue, my goal was to physically help older dogs live the last chapter of their life knowing that they were loved. What I didn't realize until recently is that they are reminding ME that I am still loved. How did that life lesson sneak in here?

 

Joy on the other end of our leash @muttvillesf with Miss Pepper #adoptdontshop #❤️

A photo posted by grouchypuppy (@grouchypuppy) on

Is it the compassion I have for older dogs that inspires me to step up, and to try and make a difference in the quality of their life? I certainly know that when I get discouraged by the news, my mood is lifted after spending a few hours with a wise old face.

Offering a discarded older dog simple affection can be rewarded with a happy expression, like Pepper has in this photo. Have you ever made any dog smile? I get a shot of electricity from it!

Getting involved in the welfare of older dogs in my community is a tonic. It's a reminder that we can do something close to home, that can have a positive tangible impact. When I come home from Muttville Senior Dog Rescue each week, I feel like I've helped add to the positive column, that my actions have cancelled out some of the negativity in the world.

My Emotional Enrichment Program

Ensuring that an older dog will know they are loved during their final chapter is my goal. Every time a Muttville dog is adopted or joins a foster home, I feel so much joy. My life is enriched from the experience, and knowing they will be loved the rest of their life. 

Learn more about Pepper, the adoptable cutie shown here. Throughout August, Muttville is waiving adoption fees to qualified adopters.

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Older dogs show us how to focus more on the present

Having a senior dog in your life is the best. Mine helped me focus on the important things and to forget about the nonsense, the noisy distractions. Thanks to my dog, I found myself caring more about her wellbeing than any reality show on television. I spent more time searching for savory recipes to make her special dog treats with. She made the distracting noises from our busy city streets fade into the background.

She isn't physically with me now, during this disturbing presidential election season, but guess what? I found a calming environment at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. These oldsters are exactly the right balance to the outlandish behavior on television and online.

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Being with my older dog brought calm, and the rotating crew in the doggy are doing an amazing job at pinch-hitting for her! All I have to do is pop my head over one of the half-doors and say, "Good morning puppies! How did you sleep? Who wants to go for a walk before breakfast?"

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Empathy and Compassion: The role older dogs play

The roles dogs play in our lives continues to grow and evolve. Millions of dogs are simple companions and best friends, while thousands serve as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and guard dogs. Their jobs often change over time, but one constant force they retain is their unique ability to positively influence us.

I have experienced the benefits from having dogs in my life at all ages. As a young girl, I felt a kinship with our family dogs. They were easy to understand, and seemed to understand me too. In all honesty, I felt closer to them emotionally than my own human siblings.

I especially remember spending quiet afternoons with Scooter, the patriarch of our crew of dogs. He taught me a lot about being still, and the power of empathy. That is one reason why when I volunteer at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, I love seeing the influence of the older dogs on visiting children.

"You don't seem like a Muttville dog, you are like a little puppy," she whispered.

Image from www.grouchypuppy.com

A wonderful role these older dogs play is that of wise teachers. They are helping us raise compassionate children, often by just being themselves. The kids are learning empathy from their exposure to the world from the eyes of an aging dog.

Many city kids can't have pets. Their time spent quietly petting, or taking care of the senior dogs at Muttville allows them to experience the effect of caring for an elderly parent or grandparent. These dogs helps them see what it means to care about a live animal, rather than a stuffed one.

I've witnessed many moments, like the one above, when a young child reaches out selflessly to give one the senior dogs some gentle affection and appreciation for sharing their time. These dogs in the doggy loft are not caged so they are free to walk away from anyone, even a sweet little girl.

What is so wonderful being around these older dogs is their willingness to open up to the sounds of love.

They don't hold grudges for the turn in their life that caused them to end up at Muttville. Instead, they seem to grab the opportunity to show all of us how to let go, savor the little moments, and enjoy a quiet cuddle.

If you give them a chance, every older dog will give you their all. They are professionals at showing people of all ages what's so special about having an animal companion, and why senior dogs rule. 

Does your community have a program where young kids can experience what it means to care for and about older dogs? How about older pets in general? 

 

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My Muttville Moment: Old dogs understand loyalty

When I look at an old dog staring out of the window at the doggy loft, I see someone who understands loyalty. The older dog has experienced what it feels like to be a part of a team. They know what it means to be able to depend on someone. I sense they are feeling the loss and it breaks my heart. My compassionate response is to give that old dog all the love and affection they can tolerate, to show them that they weren't wrong to trust us. I feel compelled to step up and show them their loyalty is valued, even more than love.

Image from www.grouchypuppy.com
Mandy

Mandy is an old dog at Muttville who understands loyalty. I took her out for a walk one morning and her focus wasn't on peeing, it was finding a certain someone or their car. We race-walked down the street pausing at every, single, parked car. She determinedly sniffed each door and tire before moving down the row. I asked her repeatedly to please go potty, because it was nicer for us all if she did her business outside, rather than in the doggy loft among the other dogs. She ignored me. She had priorities.

I don't know many cocker spaniels but I do recognize loyalty, and what it means to be part of a team.

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