There is nothing more heart-wrenching for me than seeing a senior dog in a shelter. The cloudy eyes and gray muzzle are telltale signs of a judicious past and the inevitable end. The odds of a senior pit bull being adopted are zero in a shelter over-crowded with much younger dogs. But, no senior dog should have to die in a shelter filled with stress and surrounded by unfamiliar faces.
Folks pass up the old dog because, "We want a playmate for our kids, other dogs, etc.," or "We want a puppy so we can raise her right," and "We just lost our dog of 12 years, we don't want to adopt a new dog only to have it die in 2 years." I understand the rationale for adopting a young dog over an old one, but want to put down some thoughts on the benefits of adopting a senior.
In my experience, senior dogs are nice dogs and make wonderful companions. A dog doesn't live to be a senior if he's mean or nasty. Senior dogs are calm and well-mannered and are often obedience and house trained. Senior dogs are unassuming and demand nothing; they are content with a soft bed, one square meal a day and an occasional pat. Seniors are often deaf, so they sleep soundly and rarely bark. Seniors require very little exercise and are never destructive. Senior dogs express their gratitude daily with loyalty and devotion, regardless of how they were treated in the past. They are wise beyond their years.
Senior dogs can require more veterinary care than younger dogs, and may bring a history of neglect with them. However, they embrace the future, graciously, and have earned the right to a healthy, comfortable, peaceful existence. We may only have a few months or a few years with a senior dog, but I believe they are the best years of that dog's life. And, our life is made better with them in it.
Bring a senior dog into your heart and home...you won't regret it!
Author's acknowledgement: I thank Mia, Amey, Joey, Granny, Debbie Dog and Thor for their contributions to this entry. They were 6 senior dogs I had the pleasure of adopting over the last 12 years and, though they've all passed on, each left life lessons and indelible paw prints on my heart.