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

  • Dr. Kim
  • Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on
    Staff Veterinarian and Pet Health Writer of Petplan


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!

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Comments
Posted by Kathy Dimeo
on November 03 2015 15:10

I would love to adopt seniors but the vet bills are prohibitive...If there was someway to get a discount or help with the vet costs I would have a dozen beautiful senior souls at my house...

Posted by Shirley Stallings
on September 19 2015 00:19

Only those who have lived with a senior dog know the amazing unconditional love and devotion they give that is unlike any other stage of their life. We have adopted seniors and we volunteer with a unique organization in Western Washington state, Old Dog Haven. They take the unadoptable seniors, because of age and/or health, from shelters and place them in loving permanent foster homes where their health needs will be covered for the remainder of their lives however long that may be (sometimes weeks, sometimes years). They also help shelters and owners find adoptive homes for their seniors whenever possible. They currently have 280 dogs in foster care. This amazing organization has done a great deal in this region to raise public awareness of the value of the senior dog.

Posted by Angela Butler
on October 16 2014 21:25

I have adopted two senior dogs. Both of which I was not looking for but easily found their way into my heart. I only had Blue for a few short months but he didn't spend his last days on a cold hard floor. He was a sweet old man and I am glad I was able to give him the love he deserved at the end of his life. Jessica was with us for 3 & 1/2 wonderful years. We took her in as a foster, but who were we kidding! She never left! She was 13 when we took her in and lived to be 16 & 1/2 years old! She was such a precious gift! The love she showed us was so genuine. Adopting a senior dog isn't for everyone and that is ok, but don't just discount a pet due to age! Adult and senior pets need love too. The gifts they give you in return, even if it is only for a short time, will never leave your heart.

Posted by Meghan Pacifico
on October 16 2014 16:15

Perfectly written! We picked up our first senior from the Humane Society in 2013. He had terrible allergies, and his breath stunk up the room! After we switched his food and gave him a dental (turns out he had hair wrapped around a tooth causing the rancid smell) he was a comfortable, happy dog. It really didn't cost much to improve his life by 100%. He passed 9 months after we adopted him, and the loss felt the same as if we owned him his whole life. But we managed the pain that we felt after his passing by realizing that he changed our lives for the better and I like to think we did the same for him. The impact he had on our lives is immeasurable, and his memory inspires us to keep going. We are on our second senior rescue, and the legacy of our first senior lives through him. He loves us like we have been his people his whole life. Even though he only has one eye, he can do everything every other dog can do. He is usually the center of attention when we walk him in town or take him to the beach. He's even still playful, but in much more appropriate doses compare to a puppy. :) Go to any shelter, and they will tell you that the seniors are overlooked. I love puppies and adults, but I will probably never own anything other than a senior. They have truly made our lives whole. Thanks for writing this!!

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