going grey: dr. kim smyth discusses her decision to adopt a senior pet

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Oct 20 2014

If you’re a regular reader of my posts, you know that my mixed breed dog, Katie, was the apple of my eye for 15 wonderful years before she died. Dealing with the death of a beloved pet is so very difficult, and there’s really nothing that can fill the hole in my heart that appeared when she left my life.

It’s been a year and a half now since she’s been gone, and recently I’ve started to feel like I might be ready for another dog. I miss having a dog around the house (even if the cats don’t!), and I think my children would love having a dog again, too. With that being said, I do have two young kids keeping me super busy, and I have great trepidation about adopting a puppy—I have enough to clean up around here without a puppy adding to the mess!

Luckily for us, there are literally thousands of adult dogs who need homes in this country. I’m raising the ante a little, though, by looking exclusively for a senior dog. It’s hard to believe that people abandon old dogs in shelters, but they do. When dogs give love and loyalty their whole lives, it just breaks my heart to think of them spending their last years in concrete shelter pen. They deserve better.

I think so often when people think about getting a dog, their minds immediately go to puppies. And don’t get me wrong—puppies are wonderful! But they are also a lot of work. Adult and senior dogs (for the most part) are already potty trained and (hopefully) have already grown out of their never ending energy, “let’s play some more!” attitudes and have mellowed with age.

Of course there are always exceptions—some adult and senior dogs may have behavior problems and some will take a bit of extra work to round out the rough edges. Some will find it harder to learn to love or trust than others, and I can’t blame them for that, especially when the people they loved most left them behind once already.

But senior dogs have been around the block more than once—they know love when they see it, and if you’ve got it to give, they’ll give it right back once they feel that they are safely part of the family. Give your senior pet a few days (or even a few weeks) to settle in to his new home—his life has been turned upside down, and that takes some adjusting.

Senior pets may come with medical issues that many old pets have—arthritis, dental disease and other health problems are to be expected in geriatric pets. Get as much of a medical history as you can from the rescue organization or shelter before you take your new old pet to the vet. That way you and your vet have an idea of what to expect and how best to make your new family member happy and comfortable in his golden years.

My old dog, Katie, led the life of Riley right up to her final hours with us, and it pains me that some old dogs don’t get that.

So, yesterday, my whole family loaded up and drove over to a local senior rescue organization called Peaceful Passings, where we met a ten year old Treeing Walker Coonhound named Lester. He was dumped on the side of the road three years ago (presumably for not hunting well enough) and has been living at Peaceful Passings ever since. He’s got terrible dental disease and is blind in one eye, but his smile just cannot be ignored. He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for us.

Have you adopted a senior pet? Share your experience in the comments below!