November is "Adopt a Senior Pet Month" - it's a great time to consider a senior at your local shelter or rescue. You can find many listed on Petfinder, simply do a search for your area and then refine your results to Senior (in the leftmost column on the page).
The first dog we adopted was a senior dog, who we think was around 8, and he was the best dog we ever had. Although he was only with us for 8 months (we lost him to a sudden disease, not old age), we would have not changed a thing that happened. Mikey, who we typically called "Dude", had the best personality and sucked in admirers wherever we went. He was "zen" - calm, happy, and the friendliest guy you would ever meet. He stole our hearts, and still has them wherever he is today.
In no particular order, here are ten reasons to adopt a senior pet.
- You know what you're getting
A senior dog (and cat) has developed into the dog or cat they are going to be, for the most part. They have passed their most impressionable years, so you really know what you're getting yourself into. They may need to rebuild their confidence a bit after being in the shelter, but you probably won't see major changes in their personality.
- They're experienced, having seen a bit of the world
Calm, zen, experienced dogs are more worldly than the average puppy or juvenile dog... they've seen more, and experienced more. Puppies can be great fun, and you can mold them to a greater extent. But you can choose an adult, senior dog who has exactly the characteristics you are looking for and it's less likely for them to change. You know what you are getting! Check out how they handle (ears, paws, etc), if they react to other dogs, if they are stoic, like to go for walks, or love a warm lap. You can choose the dog (or cat) that you need in your life.
- Already trained, longer attention span, and often less "work"
OK, not every senior dog comes with training. Mikey didn't have any, or didn't know our english commands. However, senior dogs can learn new tricks! Regardless, they are often they are worldly (and already socialized), having already experienced the car, busy city streets, other dogs, and all shapes and sizes of people.
A senior dogs attention span is typically longer than that of the average young dog. Many senior pets also have reduced exercise needs due to their age. Many senior dogs are happy spending most of the day on a couch or dog bed, and are happy with a shorter and slower walk punctuated with many opportunities to sniff.
Because they are worldly and experienced, and have a longer attention span, an older pet understands your needs. Or at least, notices them, a bit better than the younger pup. Their soulful eyes, and experience, means they have a greater understanding of your mood, needs, and wants. They listen, and often provide what you're looking for.
- Happy to be with you, and hang out
The senior dog is lower energy is quite happy to be with you, wherever that is. On the couch, out at the beach, at the coffee shop patio waiting while you write a blog post, running some errands with the family. They are patient, and just happy to be there, wherever there is.
- No longer a puppy: House trained, chew less, and have patience
The senior dog may be a bit confused out of the shelter (they may have been forced to potty in their kennel for some time), but will already be house trained and will remember their instincts soon after arriving home (or be relieved to finally go out on regular potty walks). Instinct kicks in at a certain age where they naturally do not want to potty in their house/den. So you won't need to housetrain your new dog.
And they are less mouthy and destructive than their puppy counterparts, and often will know how to acclimatize and just "fit in" in no time.
- Really need a home
Often overlooked at the shelter, or passed over at the rescue, the senior dog is often in dire need of a home. And they will love you for it!
- It feels good
You are in a smaller demographic, a home ready and willing to accept a senior pet, and providing that home will make both you and that dog or cat a great feeling when you arrive home. Although it feels great walking any dog out of a shelter or rescue into their new home, there's something extra special about adopting a senior pet.
- Love and devotion doesn't know age
Just because your senior adoption lived in another house for a long time doesn't mean they will love you any less, or won't be as devoted as a puppy raised from a young age. The senior dog or cat will love you just the same. That bond can and will form regardless - you are their family, they know it, and they will follow you to the ends of the earth regardless of when you brought them home.
- They teach you something special about life and love
The senior dog, or animal of any kind, teaches you to live for that day. You know your time with them will be shorter, so for some reason, you intuitively know to live a bit more for the moment than with a younger dog (even though it's beneficial to do this regardless of age!) You make every moment with them special, and you learn that it doesn't matter how much time you have with him or her. You love them every day, and make every moment a lasting one. This is what I learnt from adopting Mikey.
Here are a few other posts about dog adoption, and what dogs can teach you about life and love:
- 18 things my dogs have taught me (about life and dogs)
- The Story of Mikey, our “dude”, for Celebrate Shelter Pets Day
- What I learned from losing my dog
- The shelter dog who didn’t make it out (and the one who did)
Copyright © 2012 Jen deHaan (@dogthusiast). All Rights Reserved.