Pets don’t get old – at least they don’t know it. Yesterday, we talked about how to keep pets’ mental health sharp. For our final blog in this series, I suggest you help your pet get by with a little help from a friend.
Rule 7: Buddy Up
In almost 20 years of practicing veterinary medicine, I’ve witnessed one thing innumerable times – a new pet breathes new life into older pets.
Not long ago I diagnosed a long-time patient, Prince, with a serious form of heart disease. After outlining a treatment plan, I told the owner that my next best advice was a bit unorthodox: get a new pet. I shared with her the fact that many times the older pet regains lost vigor and lives much longer than I’d ever dreamed possible whenever a new pet is introduced.
Sure enough, two months later she appeared in my office with a brand new puppy and a brand new “old” dog. It had been years since I’d seen Prince prance like that!
Prince lived another year and a half – at least six to 12 months longer than I originally estimated. The beautiful part of the story was that not only did Prince live a longer and better life than I’d expected, but when it was time to let him go, the owner had a new friend to console her.
What I didn’t tell Prince’s pet parent when I suggested getting a new pet was that adding a furry friend before losing another one can help soften some of the loss. While no one can take the place of a beloved pet, having another there to comfort you can help tremendously. And continuing to care for the new pet after losing your older one can help you move forward and not get “stuck” in grief.
I’ll keep recommending a new best buddy for every old friend I see. You don’t have to run out and get a puppy or kitten either; there are thousands of healthy, loving adult dogs and cats in animal shelters all over the country. Whether you adopt a one-year-old or another senior, you’ll be saving a life while helping your elderly pet live better.
Our pets don’t read calendars or celebrate birthday milestones. Pets celebrate every morning when we wake up to greet them, when we return home from a long day’s work and when we take time to play and snuggle. Our pets don’t know how old they are, and I plan on keeping it that way. After all, as Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “We do not quit playing because we grow old. We grow old because we quit playing.”
Play on, dear friends. Play on.