There are so many reasons that dogs are relinquished to shelters or rescue organizations later in life. They usually aren't given up because they are a problem child. Many life circumstances land these older canines in the kennel, such as their owner passing away or falling ill, or their family moving or maybe losing an income source. Even lifestyle changes occur, such as having a baby or developed allergies of a child. Unfortunately, sometimes the only solution is to try to re-home the family pet, which is a difficult task on it's own, taking time, energy, and research. And some people don't have those options to invest. So, the dog goes.
The problem is, a dog over the age of 7, or senior dog, has a smaller chance of getting adopted when next to silly, playful puppies and younger dogs. They also, sadly, are often euthanized in an overcrowded shelter before the younger, more adoptable dogs. There is good news, though. More and more people these days are looking to save lives, thinking of these dogs' needs before their own. In fact, a recent survey by The Grey Muzzle Organization revealed a nationwide trend toward more positive perceptions and increased adoption of senior dogs.
The Benefits of Adopting a Senior Dog
Adopting an older dog may save his life—not only physically from being put down, but also figuratively. Most of these older, abandoned dogs were great family members up until life threw them a curveball. Most are already housebroken, have some obedience training, are even skilled at some work tasks. These gray muzzles just want to continue to please, and often don't understand why they have been left behind. This is why senior dogs make loyal and loving companions. By adopting them, you are giving them a second chance to make a family happy. Many are still trainable, as “senior” is defined at 7 years of age. This is only middle aged for many breeds, and these dogs still have years of life in them.
An older, more mature dog is quite desirable for many families these days. Life has become so busy, there isn't always a lot of time left to raise a puppy, who needs constant attention, cleaning up after, frequent vet visits, and training. Older dogs tend to be calmer, require less energy, and no middle-of-the-night wakeups for potty emergencies. Most are completely content snuggling into a comfy spot in your home and napping the day away. They may even encourage you to slow down and join them. These aged pups also like to meander on gentles strolls through the neighborhood, instead of tugging and pulling you down the block on walks, chasing every squirrel, dog, car, or fleeing leaf, as puppies often do. And they tend to know the difference between a chew toy and your shoes.
When new puppies come into the vet clinic, there are two main questions that everyone asks: “How big will it be?” and “How long will it take to calm down?” By adopting a mature dog, you know exactly what you are getting. You can see how big they are, how much they will weigh, and what their temperament is. Do they come with issues? Of course, all living things do. The health of an animal can never be guaranteed, no matter what the age. But many senior dog rescues offer financial support for hospice care or medical needs.
With all the support of social networks and media groups promoting rescue, senior dog adoption is steadily increasing. And there couldn't be a more important time for things to change. More and more pets are being relinquished due to our fast-paced, ever-changing lifestyles. An older dog may be just what we need to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy some slow walks around the block and therapeutic snuggles on the couch. These adoring canines have a way of showing us what life is about: Appreciation, giving second chances, and loving unconditionally and wholeheartedly.
Natasha Feduik is a licensed veterinary technician with Garden City Park Animal Hospital in New York, where she has been practicing for 10 years. Natasha received her degree in veterinary technology from Purdue University. Natasha has two dogs, a cat, and three birds at home and is passionate about helping people take the best possible care of their animal companions.