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Ease the Grief by Adopting a Senior

Posted by at 6:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)


ZoeZoe-adopted at age 12!

Years ago, I used to cry for weeks when one of my animals died or I had to make the heartbreaking decision that it was time to end his or her suffering. I always thought my animal friend was so special and irreplaceable that I would never again find such a special friend. I think I might have thought that replacing my companion too soon would be disrespectful.

Over the years, I have adopted many homeless animals. I have realized that every animal is special. Over time, that special attachment develops with each and every one. Rather than spend time mourning when I lose one of my animal companions, I immediately go to an animal shelter or rescue group and adopt a “senior.” Rather than mourn my loss, I put my energy into incorporating the newest member of the family and dealing with the new pack dynamics. I think that somehow my deceased friend helps guide my adoption choice and is cheering the rescue of another senior kitty/doggy brother/sister.

These “seniors” surprise me so often. They blossom and seem to regain their youth, and they remain part of the family for years. Sometimes our time together is short, but I feel good knowing that I have provided love and a comfortable home for their remaining time. Kittens and puppies are cute and fun, but seniors are often the ones least likely to be adopted, and there’s something really special about adopting a senior animal.

Oh- that’s a picture of one of my companions, Zoe. When I adopted her, the shelter said she was probably 12 years old- and that was five years ago!

I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences with adopting seniors. Please leave me a comment.

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    Alice says...

    September 28th, 2008, 6:32 pm

    What a beautiful story. And what a beautiful and lucky dog Zoe is. I think it’s wonderful that you are writing about this subject. Senior animals need loving homes too!

    Pam says...

    September 30th, 2008, 11:50 am

    I am a volunteer dog adoption counselor who is always trying to find homes for the “older dogs.” I am just stunned by the number of senior humans who prefer puppies. I took a senior beagle home from my shelter to foster and of course I ended up keeping her. She is the sweetest thing. We give all our potential adopters a waiting period of one week to really think about the particular dog they want. Senior dogs can be wonderful pets and by adopting them you are taking them out of the stressful environment of a shelter. Some of them, like mine, had never been indoors her whole life, and others had been loved pets, whose old or ailing owners had no one to take in the pet for them when they could no longer care for it. It’s a major shock for those dogs to enter a shelter environment.

    Some people are afraid that the associated medical costs will be prohibitive but dogs of all ages can get us into financial hell.

    Cheers for you Kerry. How wonderful that you and Zoe found each other. I am going to share your story with potential adopters. Many mature adopters (who are excellent pet owners) who’ve recently lost a pet just can’t bring themselves to start over because they think they are betraying their departed love.

    Dawn says...

    October 2nd, 2008, 10:27 am

    I too always adopt older pets. I just dont seem to have the desire to TRAIN a younger pet. I have been so lucky with the 3 older dogs adopted in my life. Currently i have a large dog that was 8 when adopted. She had been left at an abandoned house, tied to a tree. She was starving when the shelter rescued her. They nursed her back to health to give her a second chance. She was pretty ugly when i went to the shelter. I just wanted the dog “least likely to find a home”. The shelter volunteers led me straight to “bozo”. I really wasnt interested at first…but later changed my mind and returned to her cage to say. “I will take her”. The volunteers cried and hugged me. It was Christmas 3 years ago. They put me and my new companion on the cover of their news letter. She has turned out to be the sweetest big dogg that i have ever had. I am sure that she had never been inside a house ever before. Now she LIVES on my couch and i have to ask permission to join her there. She is the friendliest dog at the dog park and loves all the kids and cats she meets too. She is awesome!

    Nancy says...

    October 2nd, 2008, 12:03 pm

    Kerry, you rock my world! I hope that people will listen to you about the beauty of an older dog. I have taken many seniors from shelters over the years to rehome them, and as Dawn says, the shelter workers and volunteers do cry — from happiness for the dog, and relief for themselves for not having to euthanize a wonderful dog. Senior dogs at shelters are the first to go for space, and they are the coolest dogs ever. The problem for most people is health, but as a rescuer, I have found a solution to that. In my community, there is a wonderful low cost spay and neuter clinic, Pet Savers, and they often have vets of one specialty or another volunteer to do procedures not normally done in this clinic. An older dog with severe problems (that are very fixable, such as teeth cleaning, extractions, fatty tumors) often scare people because of cost. However, there are now many rescue groups who specialize in senior dogs, and they have all these procedures done before adopting out an animal. Google “senior rescue dogs (your state)” and you will find such groups.

    Nancy Ball says...

    October 3rd, 2008, 5:06 pm

    Kerry, thank you for sharing your beautiful story. It is heart breaking to lose a dog (or any pet). My husband and I were distraught for days after making the difficult decision 4 years ago with our male Shih Tzu. He was not just a dog, he was an important member of our family. I can relate to how you have felt. We noticed how our second Shih Tzu really aged and lost something when she realized he was not coming home. It was very hard for everyone.

    A few months later, and not thinking we were ready for another dog, my son told me of a family who were going to have white Shih Tzu pups. Our “baby” is now 4 years old and has me wrapped around her little paw.
    She’s our little angel.

    For the past few years I have felt such a strong need to do something to save a dog but because of our local laws and small home, didn’t know if it was possible. I have always done what I could to help financially.

    After reading many stories of the benefits of adopting older animals – no digging, no chewing, already trained, I decided to make a commitment. This is something I have wanted to do for quite some time. About 2 months ago I looked on PetFind for our local shelter and saw “the one” I wanted to adopt. His name is Oscar and he is a gentle giant. The shelter found him wandering along the side of the road. It’s now been two months and we still haven’t heard him bark. He’s so quiet, lovable, loyal and follows my husband everywhere. Because of our local by-laws, we can only have 2 dogs in our home. The shelter worked with us to register him using my work address. Oscar goes to work with us every day and he greets customers as they come and go. Everyone loves him.

    If I had more room, I wouldn’t hesitate to give a loving home to more animals.

    God bless you Kerry.

    Nini Sanchez says...

    October 3rd, 2008, 7:45 pm

    Thank you for finding the incredible joys of adopting senior animals! I, too, have always done this! They come alive again with the love we give them… and they give to us immeasurable happiness! God bless you!!!

    Nancy says...

    October 3rd, 2008, 8:47 pm

    We now have adopted our second older/special dog from the shelter where I volunteer. The first dog we only had for three months when she was discovered to have inoperable cancer. She had been adopted a few times and each time through no fault of hers she was returned-divorce, job transfer to a country that would not allow her breed. The saying around the shelter was if she didn’t have bad luck she wouldn’t have had any luck at all. She was a love but didn’t get along with other dogs. There were many volunteers who would have taken her home but they had other dogs. We had just lost our old dog so…….. When it was time to end her suffering I have never seen my husband cry so hard. This is why I love him so much.
    We now have a beagle that was found to have mammory cancer so her chances of adoption were limited with that on her cage card. We have had her for 5 years and it hasn’t returned although she is now having some health issues.
    Both of these dogs have given us so much more than we were able to give them. But we were able to give them their “forever” home.

    Alin Cox says...

    October 3rd, 2008, 8:56 pm

    These where all amazing stories, I loved them all. A few of them, I wanted to cry from the instict to help animals. Thank You All.

    Madalene says...

    October 4th, 2008, 5:06 am

    I adopted a female chihuahua from a puppy farm who didn’t want her because she wouldn’t breed. She was 4 1/2 then and is 8 years old now. It took her 2 years to begin to trust me, and now we are inseparable. I will take your advice to heart when I need another companion.

    Steve says...

    October 4th, 2008, 5:25 am

    Last November we were asked if we were interested in adopting 9 year old Mick, a pug with some vision problems. He had already been rescued once and his rescuer’s new wife-to-be didn’t like him. He was kept outside during the day. Once we got him to the vet (His rescuer had never taken him to one) we discovered that Mick was blind! The vet felt that one of his eyes was so bad that it needed to be removed because it seemed to cause him pain. Upon further examination, the vet found that Mick had eight abcessed teeth! Needless to say they didn’t have to remove his eye after getting those teeth out. Mick has joined our other three pugs with no problems. He gets around beautifully, except for steps and walking on a leash. We’ve found he absolutely loves fruits and vegetables, especially oranges and tomatoes. It seems like we’ve had him forever and there have been no regrets at all. We’ve since adopted a fifth pug who isn’t a senior, but have decided that all future adoptions will be seniors.

    Merilyn says...

    October 4th, 2008, 12:43 pm

    God bless all you wonderful, caring folk who open your hearts and homes to any animal, young or old. Y’all making me cry!!
    I wish I had a house- I’d have so many animals! I always same to find sick and injured animals of all types (or they find me), and I thank God for the Broward Humane Society and the Florida Wildlife Care Center in Ft. Lauderdale.

    Jenifer Newfeld says...

    October 4th, 2008, 1:10 pm

    What loving stories from all, and I too, and an animal lover of “seniors”. I have always adopted strays or gone to the shelters for my senior companions. Each one has his or her own wonderful love to give, and i think everyone should adopt at least one senior in their lives. I wish more education could be shown to the public at fairs and lectures about senior adopting. Just think of so many more that could find love and homes that would care for them as though they had been with them for many years. I am not a youngster anymore, and I know how it feels to be older. I appreciate anyone who shows this much respect for the older adoptee.
    Thank you for all you out there who show this when you select a companion.

    Tucker says...

    October 6th, 2008, 3:48 pm

    GOD BLESS YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The older Animals are LUCKY to have someone like you!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    They are in just as much need for love and affection as the younguns are!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    BLESS YOUR HEART, AND KEEP IT UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Donna Hamilton says...

    October 18th, 2008, 3:53 pm

    Louis was our good boy. We were lucky to share our lives with him for just over two years.

    He came to us as a foster when he was about seven years old. He was adopted, but a few weeks later the bad hat that adopted him brought him back. “This dog isn’t tough enough,” the man complained. Hmm. I thought Louis was a pretty scrappy little dog, surviving being relinquished by several owners in his life. He’d been a dog to hold his ground when he left to live with the man, but when he was returned, he was timid, afraid.

    We decided Louis needed some time to recover from whatever had happened to him at the man’s house, so we planned to keep him with us for a few months before giving him another chance at a permanent home. We didn’t think we could keep another dog; we had two already (Amy and Madeleine). Shortly after that, though, we noticed lumps in Louis’ neck. The doctor confirmed the worst: lymphoma. In most dogs, the disease would take them in a matter of weeks, a couple months at the most. We committed to keeping him happy and comfortable for as long as we were blessed with him.

    Despite his diagnosis, like the Energizer bunny Louis just kept on going. After about a year, the lumps got so big we had them removed. We knew it wouldn’t cure him, but it made him more comfortable. We did it again after another year!

    Louis grew fond of our other dogs, particularly Amy. The two of them would bask in the sun together, their paws crossed. Very cute.

    Finally, the day came when Louis went to heaven. He was fine when we went to work that morning, but when we got home, we could instantly see that something was wrong. We called the doctor and explained what was happening. The disease had spread to his brain, we were told; this would be it.

    We decided to give Louis a deserving send-off with one last happy family evening together; we would wait to take him to the doctor until the morning. That night Louis had his favorites for dinner: a steak and a bowl of beer. Louis, Amy and Madeleine slept in our bed with us, everyone spooning, and Louis with his head in its usual spot on the pillow. The doctor had prescribed a sedative so Louis wouldn’t be scared. It helped him sleep that night.

    The next day, still sleepy from the medicine, the trip to the doctor was peaceful. When it was time, Papadog held Louis in his arms and bid him good-bye. As our boy exhaled his last breath, Papadog inhaled. It was a good farewell. He was a good boy. We haven’t stopped missing him, lo these many years past. (Louis Wood. 1989-1998)

    Michelle says...

    November 24th, 2008, 2:05 am

    Yes, senior animals need as much love just as much! They are all special and deserving of a forever home! :)

    Kari - Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary says...

    December 11th, 2008, 1:46 pm

    Kerry, I am so sorry to hear about Patty’s death, but very happy that Duff has scored a wonderful home with the Anderliks. The stories of good folks who offer homes to the elderly really warms my heart! I’m not sure, but I think that Chris Anderlik is wearing one of our Jungle Friends sweatshirts, and if so, we are honored and proud!

    Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary was recently asked to give a permanent home to seventy cotton-top tamarins who were in a research laboratory that was closing. Although we couldn’t accept them all due to funding issues, I am happy to report that we were able to offer a forever home to ten of the tamarins who were proving difficult to place because they were elderly and had ‘special needs’. The tamarins are doing just great, enjoying a new larger life here at Jungle Friends. They have the benefit of the Florida sunshine on their little faces and are having a grand time leaping from tree to tree in their habitats.

    I know your beautiful story will encourage others to offer forever homes to elderly and ‘special needs’ companion animals that find themselves homeless. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful story!

    Cassie Raymond says...

    December 12th, 2008, 3:36 pm

    I have a 4 yr-old cat and a 12 yr-old cat and my partner and I have already agreed that when the time comes when we will lose one of our beloved felines, he or she will be replaced with a senior. We, too, know that they’re not always the popular choice for adoption. We love the kittens and puppies as much as everyone else, but when it comes to being able to choose an older animal from a shelter, how can you say no? I would like to think that as humans, we would respect and honor the elderly in our animal friends as much as we should our human friends. They deserve to have a loving home for the golden years of their lives!

    kathy says...

    December 12th, 2008, 6:42 pm

    That’s very nice .
    But
    7 is hardly senior!
    My mini poodle is 7 and 1/2 and is still just a puppy.

    Lana MacInnes says...

    December 12th, 2008, 7:44 pm

    Seniors and special needs dogs are the best, they have given us so much joy… don’t let anyone tell you you can’t bond with an older dog. I am snuggling here with our 8 year old who we adopted 6 weeks ago, it is like she has been with us all her life. We are her first forever home yet she is polite and sweet and loving. She was a puppy mill breeding dog, rescued from death when she could not produce any more pups…and was driven over 2000 km from Oklahoma City US to us in Canada by several wonderful volunteers.

    The oldest dog we adopted was a 13 year old who had lived on a farm all his life. His family was selling the farm, moving to Florida and did not want to take him so were going to kill him. He had never been in a house when he came to us, yet within two days he was housetrained by watching our other dogs…you CAN teach an old dog new tricks :-) All they want is to be given a chance.

    pat antonucci says...

    December 13th, 2008, 4:02 pm

    MY family has always adopted from the shelter…About 2 years ago…we adopted a 14 year old standard poodle who we renamed Charlie.. He was brought to the shelter by this couple who said that their daughter was away at college so they couldnt take care of him anymore! He was shaking like a leaf, so my daughter and I brought him home.. He just passed away last month at the age of 16.. He was a great dog…loved being with us..got along with the other dogs and cats…He was an inspiration to us…Everyone is special and has much to offer at any age…God bless my Charlie.

    Judy Moore says...

    December 13th, 2008, 8:54 pm

    Teddy Bear was a 30-poundish terrier mix with a face quite like Benji. At 10, or thereabouts, he was on death row at a pound, and had suffered greatly from neglect throughout his life. Due to an error at the pound, he was “missed” somehow on the day his life was to be ended! Long story short, someone rescued him that day and arranged to get him transported to me, several states away. No one was even aware of Teddy Bear’s challenges, but upon his arrival at our house, in his nervous frenzy, he immediately fell headlong down a flight of stairs, so we realized he could not see, at least not much. And moments later it became obvious that neither could he hear. He was distressingly frantic, frightened, and upset. His handicaps magnified for him his concerns about a new place, but he was ever so affectionate. In an effort to lessen his fears and bring him peace, I immediately began developing with him something called Dialogue, a form of training within a compassionate lifestyle that I learned from my many rescued dogs. Within two weeks he was calm and confident, was living ever so successfully, and was able to devote all his efforts toward being the greatest loving companion and family member ever. Our other dogs found many ways to serve as his eyes and ears. Teddy Bear’s 18 months with us before he passed on were filled with amazing experiences, and we were blessed immeasurably for opening our home to him.

    Lizz says...

    December 25th, 2008, 12:40 pm

    I too adopt seniors and animals with disabilities! They are so amazing and each and every one of them teaches me new things. The older they are, the more amazing I find the lessons and tales that they tell. To adopt a 12 year old dog and discover that he/she has no idea what to do with a milkbone or toy. To learn that all they knew for food was what they scavenged out of a trashcan. I recently took in a veryold, emaciated male dog who was found in dire conditions. He had never experienced what it meant to be in a house,let alone have his own bed! The tears you shed living with these animals is nothing to the ” tears” that they have shed before meeting you. They show you everyday how blessed they feel and give back so much more than anyone could ever give.There are blind, deaf, and crippled animals out there that need us–everyone consider providing them a forever home and they will love you forever!!

    angela gunn says...

    December 26th, 2008, 3:15 pm

    ANIMALS SUFFER ENOUGH AT THE HANDS OF HUMANBEINGS WITHOUT ME ADDING TO FURTHER SUFFERING. I AM A VEGETERIAN AND PROUD OF IT I FEEL HEALTHIER AND MORE ALERT I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD CHANGE THERE THOUGHTS ON EATING ANIMALS THEN IT WOULD BE A BETTER WORLD TO BE LIVING IN

    Joanna says...

    March 2nd, 2012, 1:33 pm

    I adopted two middle aged kitties (7 or 8, precise age unknown) from a local shelter. I specifically asked for an older, bonded pair for the very reasons noted in this article.

    They were the loves of my life. We had many health and psychological problems to deal with but then they had been in and out of the shelter and foster homes for all of those 7 or 8 years and had never had a permanent home.

    They were litter mates and two more handsome boys you have never seen! Two gorgeous, polydactyl Tuxedos with characters to match.

    Very sadly in November last year one of them developed an agressive oral cancer and I couldn’t bear to see the suffering so I sent him to the Rainbow Bridge which broke my heart. The other little guy had been unwell and on medication for a while. 10 days after the passing of his brother, I had to send him too to the Rainbow Bridge as we had discovered a mass in his stomach that also proved cancerous.

    I can’t tell you the heartache of losing them both within the span of 10 days but I believe that they were meant to be together. They had been together since birth and nature had its way of keeping them together in death.

    I had always asked the universe to please give me 7 or 8 years with them. I wanted to match the miserable first years with kind and loving senior years. I wanted to make it up to them. In total they were with me for 7.5 years and I am so very thankful for that.

    I wasn’t a perfect Mum all the time, there could always have been more cuddles, more grooming, more playing but I loved them with all my heart and soul.

    When the grieving is done I will be back to the shelter for another senior pair without hesitation.

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