It’s my birthday this Sunday, March 8, which always makes me pause and think about where I am in relation to last year and where I want to be next year. While this birthday isn’t a significant number (like turning 21 or 50) I’m old enough to have come to a place in life where my priorities are different from what they were 10-20 years ago. My focus is less about what I want and more about who can I serve which feels really great.
Next month my dog, Jake, will celebrate his birthday and, unlike mine, his is a significant number: the big 10. I honestly can’t believe Jake has been with me for 9 years already. Of course, at the same time, I almost can’t remember life without him except that I am so much happier with him in my life than I was before.
Jake and I have both mellowed and are far more likely to live life on our terms which is one of my favorite blessings. Our life is organized around what works best for Jake’s well-being and what work’s best for my dog training business. We have the right amount of active vs. rest time and it feels really great. There is beauty and wisdom in getting older and knowing yourself well enough that you do what works for you regardless of what other people think you should be doing.
Watching Jake get older has taught me a lot about the strength that age brings. In Jake’s mind he’s still the same dog he always was. He doesn’t think about age the same way as a human does. His attitude is one of the things that gave me the courage to completely change careers after 50 by going to dog training school and starting Creature Good Dog Training.
I’d like to think that together, Jake and I have grown in grace and wisdom over the years. Whether true or not, it’s what I like to think.
Don’t get me wrong, puppies and human babies are adorable, but today I want to point out and be grateful for the beauty and wisdom in the face of an old woman, man or dog. The stories you can see in their eyes are magnetic. Older folks (human and canine alike) have seen and experienced things, both good and bad, that imbue them with a perspective that only comes from time. For dogs (and some people) they are able to still maintain the joyful heart of a puppy.
Too often, modern society fails to appreciate what it’s more time-experienced members have to offer. Whether that be ignoring the opinions of older humans in favor of the latest fad or surrendering an older dog in favor of a new puppy, getting older can have a dark side.
Sure, we slow down, maybe don’t know all the latest technology or pee a little at unexpected moments, these are minor matters when it comes to the benefits of age. However, in our throw away society where we destroy the planet for the convenience of single-use plastics, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that people also “throw away” their older pets for newer versions.
Sometimes older dogs find themselves in need of adoption because their human passed away and there wasn’t anyone in the family to take them in. Too often, people simply tire of their older, slower pet. They don’t want to deal with the occasional pee-pee accidents I mentioned earlier. Honestly, I pity these people because they must not have souls.
Quite literally I have seen people who’ve enjoyed the love and loyalty of a dog for many years give that dog up because it’s become old and boring and they want to get a puppy. Those dogs are ill-equipped for shelter life after living with one family all their lives. They are terrified and traumatize and often even euthanize because they are less likely to be adopted than younger dogs (and this happens to cats, too). I find myself wondering who do you have to be to make such a decision? To look in the face of an animal who has committed it’s entire life to you, see some gray hairs and decide it’s time for a puppy.
I hadn’t really meant to rant so I’ll wrap it up. What I really want to do is share with you all the wonderful reasons why you might want to take a chance on adopting an older pet. Here they are, in no particular order:
Older pets are usually already housebroken. If they were surrendered due to incontinence, there are medications, diapers, etc., to deal with that issue.
They have lower energy levels. If you want a pet who doesn’t need extensive exercise, an older dog could be just the ticket. They still need walks for mental and physical stimulation but not as often or for as long as younger pups.
Their personalities are established. Puppies grow up and become teenagers and then adults and it isn’t until then that you really know what your dog is going to be like for most of their adult years. Older pets, on the other hand, are who they are and you can expect that to remain. They will need some time to adjust to their new environment and express their true personality but you can count on getting what you think you are getting.
Older pets are already socialized. Except in rare instances where an older dog has been rescued from the streets, your new pet is going to be socialized already so you don’t need to worry about exposing him to wheels, hats, beards, etc. like you do with a puppy. You already know what to expect.
They are grateful. Puppies, of course, love to be adopted are are happy to live with you. They tend not to stay long in shelters or experience a lot of time homeless. Senior dogs aren’t always so lucky. They watch other dogs get adopted day after day, maybe they’ve already been through a few family situations and know that life can be cruel. Because of their wider experience, older pets are truly grateful to be adopted. They understand what is happening and they will love you so deeply and profoundly you will be humbled by it.
Although they are older and already know a lot, seniors aren’t set in their ways. They can adapt to their new lifestyle and even learn new tricks (despite what the old saying claims) and they will bring you as much joy as any other pet.
Are there any cons, you ask?
Truly, the only downside is that you won’t have as much time with these pets. Yes, your heart will break, but I promise you it will be worth it.
I got Jake when he was almost one year old so he wasn’t a senior then. He is now though and I wouldn’t trade his lumps, bumps, limps and grizzled face for all the puppies in the world.