November was Adopt a Senior Pet Month, but that doesn't mean the love for old friends should stop pouring in. While senior dogs, typically categorized as dogs who are eight years and older, aren't usually quite as spry or mischievous as puppies, they still have so much love to give. Unfortunately, however, senior dogs in shelters are often overlooked for younger pets who have less medical needs and a longer potential lifespan. The sad reality of this situation is that often older dogs will be left to die in shelters, alone and without the comfort and love they deserve, simply because they're a bit gray around the muzzle...and that needs to change.
I remember being nine years old and being elated when I heard the news that my neighbors would be getting a dog. Even better, they were getting a puppy. Little did I know, that bright-eyed, slightly chubby yellow lab would change my life in more ways than I could imagine. I remember seeing his wet black nose pressed against our screen door every morning in hopes of snagging one of the treats we kept in a jar on the kitchen counter. His tail would wag wildly, hitting whoever (or whatever) was nearby, filling the house with happiness and warmth that only a dog can make. In the summer, he would be the first one in the lake, letting everyone know that the water was just perfect.
But, as he got older, he began to slow down. He started to prefer long naps in his favorite chair to playing fetch in the yard. Warm, sunshiny days used, to begin with, him begging to be taken for a run. Now, even though he's still quite the athlete, he's just as content sunbathing on the front porch. This is the point in a dog's life where medical issues often arise, leading to staggering bills from visit after visit to the veterinarian; he now struggles with arthritis and allergies that require special medication. And unfortunately, many dog owners will become overwhelmed by these new responsibilities and feel like they are unable to give adequate care to their pet in their final years. This can lead to shelters being flooded with older pets who are unable to be cared for anymore by their owners.
But, despite his health issues and lazy lifestyle, my neighbors' dog has the spirit of a puppy. He's still adventurous, spunky, and full of affection, as are so many older dogs. I'm glad he's able to live out the rest of his years in a caring, familiar environment, but it breaks my heart that thousands of senior dogs don't receive this same treatment. However, this pattern can be stopped, and it begins with people just like you.
If you're looking to adopt a dog, consider looking at a local shelter to see if there are any available pets that would match your lifestyle needs. And perhaps, if an older dog catches your eye, give them a chance. Ask to visit with them, take them for a walk, and get to know them. Be patient. They might walk a little slower, or pant a little harder, but I promise that the love they will give you will overshadow all of their flaws.