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For starters, senior dogs are much easier than puppies
When getting ready to welcome a dog into their home, many people gravitate toward puppies and rarely consider adopting an older pooch. This means that senior dogs are overlooked in shelters and have a difficult time getting adopted. What many people don’t realize, though, is that these dogs can make incredible pets — and in fact, their age is often part of their charm.
“Senior dogs are special because they’re amazingly resilient regardless of their past history,” says Ardeth De Vries, executive director of Old Dog Haven, a nonprofit that places senior dogs in permanent foster homes in western Washington state. “They’re very grateful for a second chance at happiness.”
Though it varies by breed, a senior dog is generally age 7 or older. The most common concerns about adopting a senior dog are that they’ll have too many health issues, they won’t be around very long, or they won’t be active. While it’s true that some seniors will come with medical issues, many of them are perfectly healthy and sprightly — not to mention full of love.
“I like to say senior dogs are like putting on your favorite pair of slippers,” says Sherri Franklin, founder and CEO of Muttville Senior Dog Rescue, which rescues senior dogs from shelters across California and places them in forever homes. “Older dogs have plenty of life experience, they are mellow and go with the flow, and they won’t eat your computer wires or your phone!”
Here are five reasons to adopt a senior dog into your family.
1. There will be few surprises when you adopt a senior dog.
“With an older dog, for the most part, you’ll know what you’re getting with their health and behavior,” says Doreen Jakubcak, founder and executive director of Marty’s Place, a New Jersey sanctuary that provides a safe, protected environment for senior dogs.
On the other hand, with a puppy, you’ll often wonder how big she’ll get or what issues might arise in the future. When adopting a senior dog, you’ll usually be provided with a full report — and then you can decide if you’re equipped to care for him.
2. Caring for a senior dog is so much easier than for a puppy.
Many senior dogs have already lived in a home, so they’re often house-broken, saving you lots of time, stress, and destroyed carpets. Plus, many understand basic commands — but will still have the capability to learn.
Plus, you won’t have to deal with that notorious puppy energy.
“Senior dogs are generally more laid-back than younger dogs and can adjust to almost any situation as long as they’re loved and valued as a member of the family,” De Vries says.
3. You just might learn something.
“Senior dogs have years of experience to draw on and they have valuable lessons to teach humans,” says De Vries. “They are excellent teachers, and if we would listen to what dogs have to say about how to successfully live a life, we’d be much better humans.”
Franklin says she gets emails every day from adopters about how much they’re learning from their senior dogs.
“Many people tell us their dog has taught them so much: how to live in the moment and how to be graceful and accepting,” she says.
Whether they came from a loving family who could no longer care for them or from a life of neglect and abuse, senior dogs will have tons of unconditional love and gratitude to give, and with patience, you can find one who’s the perfect match for you.
“The beauty with a senior is that you can find one that fits your lifestyle — whether that’s more active or you prefer the quiet companionship of a dog lying next to you on the sofa,” Jakubcak says. Just be clear about what you’re looking for.
“At Muttville, we get active dogs, couch potatoes, waggy tails, playful dogs, and those that just want to warm your lap,” Franklin adds. “It’s about making the right love connection, and we specialize in that!”
5. You can save a life.
In overcrowded shelters, older dogs are among the first to be euthanized. Opening your home to one of these dogs can literally save his life — and give him that second chance at happiness.
“It’s such a rewarding experience to give a dog a great and loving last chapter,” Franklin says.
Of course, if you do welcome a senior dog into your life, you’ll need to be prepared to provide structure, routine, and regular vet visits. Your new friend might need frequent bathroom breaks or the occasional help getting up the stairs.
But no matter what, it will all be worth it to see his wagging tail each day, so grateful that you took a chance on him.
“Person or dog,” Jakubcak says, “you really are never too old for a new best friend.”
Photos: Julie Austin Photography