Adopt A Senior Pet
November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month and is set aside to help older pets find loving forever homes. Many people look to a shelter or a rescue hoping to adopt a puppy or kitten, looking past the perfectly adoptable older dogs and cats.
Puppies and kittens have that awe factor. Who doesn’t love to snuggle with a tiny furry friend. I love it! It’s great when puppies and kittens come in for the first several exams. I can’t get enough, but I’m happy to give them back to their owners at the end of their visit. Just like human babies are a lot of work; kittens and more so dogs are too. The adorable puppy/kitten stage is long gone but if you adopt a senior pet there are benefits and love you get back in spades. I’ve adopted four senior pets in the past 19 years. Currently, I’m in the middle of the heartbreaking side of adopting an older pet, but I can’t warn you against it.
Age is Just A Number
We lost our 14 year old Pug, Louis, to complications from an ocular tumor in 2016. Duke, our Black Pug, was still missing companionship two years later. We decided to look for a new Pug or a French Bulldog, maybe even a bird dog. I love German Short haired Pointers and Vizsla’s. After a few months of diligently looking on rescue websites and feeds I found this picture.
She had a lot going against her. Sheltering While Black (SWB) is not always a recipe for success. Black dogs (and cats) are often passed over for adoption because of one thing, their color. On top of that she was 10 years old. Just check out that adorable sugar senior face. Click this link to read my blog post on National Black Dog Day
“Angel Assassin”, an old black lab was at a rescue near where we live. Something about her face spoke to me. I took time at lunch that day to go meet her. She was a big lab (90 pounds, and she wasn’t fat). I sat on the floor with her. She let me pet her and give her a hug, because that’s what I do. I did the nurse thing: looked in her ears, opened her mouth, touched her toenails. She was sweet and quiet, a true departure from our 10-year-old Pug who is still rowdy. I called my husband and told him we needed to take Duke to meet her that night.
The rescue is first come first serve so I didn’t want to lose her to someone else. She needed us. Duke was good with her and she was great with our son. Due to an event that evening we couldn’t take her home that night. We stayed with her in the play yard until close. Up early and back to the shelter she became part of our family first thing the next morning. I knew she was larger than your average Lab but didn’t realize how big until I tried to get her into my Prius. Oops, dog mom fail. She fits door to door in the back seat. First Things First: change her name, second: new car.
I’m not really a lab person (probably because everyone likes labs). I like them but never wanted one because of their energy level and they eat everything. Old dogs have less energy. Bonus! Six months after adopting her I lost my agency job and was home full time. My local parent friends had abandoned me (when you have no money you don’t get do things with people who do). Unemployed and depressed i spent long stretches of cuddle time with the dogs. Down side, I gained a lot of weight. When we go for longer walks she does like to pick up the pace to a slow jog. I told her, I’m not a runner so we can only jog. I think it was her attempt to try to keep me in shape. She always has my best interest at heart.
Stella Luna turned out to be an adept counter surfer (which we were not used to with Pugs) and pantry thief. If given the chance she can clear out packaged goods in the pantry and hand warmers left on the counter. Sourdough bread is her favorite. The day we were supposed to leave on spring break, she decided to eat three years worth of heartworm and flea and tick prevention (one for each dog), along with some of the packaging. This was my first experience with a foreign body surgery as an owner. Even with all that, I still love her, just not her behavior.
When we first adopted her she slept on a dog bed on the floor. She was then upgraded to an IKEA twin mattress on our floor. After a few particularly frigid nights last winter she has moved up to our Sleep Number (she prefers 85) smack dab in between my husband and I. She is definitely my dog. When we first adopted her I had left animal health and was working at an advertising agency. I could take her to work with me. So for the first three months she regularly went with me to the office and laid at my feet under my desk or next to me in meetings. I couldn’t have done that with a new puppy. The benefits are endless with a senior pet, maybe just not space on the bed.
The Hard Part
Five days ago my Stella Luna refused to eat, the next day I took her to work for labs. Her ALT came back over 800. Her AST was also elevated. Three months earlier it was solidly within normal limits. This points to acute hepatitis, but why? Tomorrow she will have an ultrasound and possible lap biopsy to get a good chunk of cells for evaluation. I fear my days with my black pearl are few. I love her unconditionally and no matter how this week ends, I am a better human for having her as part of our family.
Benefits of a Senior Pet
It’s a sad fact that older pets are often overlooked. We were lucky to find the most amazing senior dog earlier this year. Her age was cited as a reason they didn’t choose her. Their loss has been our gain for a year and eight months. Just a few of the benefits of adopting a senior pet:
- They are an adult so no surprise on the size. Many new pet parents are excited about the puppy just adopted. And were told it was this crossed with this or that. No one ever says that is a Mastiff or Irish Wolfhound when it’s not. If you aren’t ready for a giant breed it could be overwhelming.
- Frequently these pets will be house trained or almost house trained. With a stable home, set routine, knowing where and when to go means very few accidents when compared to that of a 10 week old.
- Personalities are generally established once a pet is of certain age. After a pet is comfortable in their new home they tend to come out of any shyness they may have developed in foster care or at the shelter. This will help you to know they are a good fit for your home.
- Energy level is generally lower with senior cats and dogs. If you are looking for a pet with a slower pace, in general an older pet allows you to know what you are going to get. Snails pace pup or energetic senior citizen.
- They know when they’ve got a good thing.
I knew at almost 11 years old when we adopted Stella Luna, we could have anything from six months to maybe six years.
Happy Pet Parenting,