By, Katy Cable
A 3 min. Read
This is a painful blog to write but an important one. My story begins while waiting for a job interview at a high-kill animal shelter. It was a position I was excited about and thought I stood a good chance of landing. As I paced the lobby, I watched what I thought was prospective dog owners walking potential new family members around the courtyard. What I witnessed next still brings me to tears.
A well-dressed couple arrived in a luxury car that cost more than most homes. They emerged outfitted wearing from head to tippy-toe in designer clothing. In a woman’s arms was a senior dog also outfitted in “canine couture!” As they approached the reception window I overheard the woman say, “We’re moving and can’t take the dog. She’s also gotten too old!”
The woman working at the shelter “intake” window asked for a fee to relinquish the dog and informed her this was an overcrowded, high-kill shelter. Due to the dog’s age, the chances of her being adopted were slim-to-none. The couple was completely unfazed after hearing their pet’s almost certain fate. They couldn’t get rid of this dog fast enough. They tossed the dog and a wad of cash through the window without a hint of remorse. -Or a pat goodbye.
Hearing that heartbroken dog howl and whine as she was abandoned, is a scene I can never erase from my mind. I couldn’t hold back my tears listening to a surround sound stereo of crying dogs in cages. I realized that all the dogs I’d seen in the courtyard that afternoon were not adoption candidates but actually pets being relinquished. I knew right then and there I couldn’t work in this environment. I opted to be an advocate for senior pets.
OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW…
We live in an “out with the old, in with the new” culture. We value shiny, new things and quickly replace anything the minute an upgrade or latest version hits the market. We’re all too interested in what’s trending with “millennials” yet disregard the experience and wisdom held by those eligible for “Medicare.” And the same holds true for our dogs.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing so many people surrendering older dogs. For some, it’s the mounting medical expenses. For others, it’s the care they need. And tragically, sometimes it’s the simple fact people want a younger, new pet. Whatever the case, that loyal companion that has always had your back, loved and adored you, now needs your care and attention more than ever.
As a dog ages, their sole purpose becomes being your faithful companion. (Pugs in particular are bred for that very reason!) Providing unconditional love is what they DO! Having nobody to love compromises their fragile immune systems terribly. -As our shelters and rescue groups see all too often.
I realize I’m singing to the choir! The fact you’re reading this tells me you would sever your own arm before discarding your aging pet. So, here’s a few ways you can help:
❤️LET’S BE ADVOCATES FOR ADOPTING SENIOR PETS AND PROMOTING THE ADVANTAGES❤️
1. Shelters and rescues charge far less for senior pets and those with special needs.
2. With some pets considered “senior” at only 5-6 years old, many “older” pets can still live, long, healthy lives.
3. Most older pets are already well trained and know commands. However, you can definitely teach “old dogs new tricks” and, with patience, can train them at any stage of their life.
4. Senior pets are quite capable of transferring affection and you’ll be regarded as their hero.
5. Older pets are quite content with a slower-paced, simple lifestyle. They don’t have the same energy levels or require nearly as much exercise.
If you’re considering adopting an older pet or if you currently have one that’s “getting up there”, here’s a few helpful tips:
1. Pets age as quickly as a Hollywood ingenue, about 7 dog years to every 1 human year. It’s important to have more frequent vet checks. This way you can hopefully catch any problem while it’s less risky and EXPEN$IVE! Your vet can also be helpful in recommending supplements and medications to ease issues and give your pet a good quality of life.
2. Dogs thrive on familiarity and routine. Any change can be a huge stressor. Don’t accelerate your dog’s aging process by adding more stress to their life. For instance, when planning your vacation, it’s perhaps better to leave your dog home with a trusted familiar pet sitter or relative, rather than put them through the upheavals of travel. Do your best to stick to a regular routine.
3. Keep things accessible. Be mindful of stairs, slippery floors, and other hard to navigate surfaces. Keep food, water and potty areas in well lit, easily accessible places. Be thoughtful about how you rearrange the house and move things. This can be difficult and stressful to your dog as their senses decline.
4. Don’t neglect dental care! It all starts in the mouth. Billions of bacteria can flood into the bloodstream and attack every organ in your dog’s body. Don’t forget to brush their teeth regularity as well as get their teeth checked. It’s never too late to start brushing their choppers!
5. Senior/mature dogs have different dietary needs than a growing or more active dog. As dogs age, their sense of smell and taste diminish. Teeth can also be sensitive (or in the case of many pugs, GONE!) Your once happy eater may become bored with current food. Now may be a great time to switch from dry kibble to canned, moist, or soft, raw food. At the very least try switching to a variety with less carbs, or a senior formula of food. READ THOSE INGREDIENTS (See video below for tips or discuss with your vet.)
6. Exercise is still important but modify activity. Those all day hikes and 5 mile runs along the beach may need to be replaced with a slower walk in a wagon or stroller. Or some play in the pool. It’s still crucial to keep your pet moving! Try CBD oil and other natural supplements for muscle pain relief.
7. Know the signs of pain. Dogs are stoic. By nature they don’t want to appear vulnerable to predators. They can endure ungodly amounts of pain without you having the first clue something’s wrong. Here’s a few possible indicators that your dog may be in pain:
SIGNS OF PAIN AND DISTRESS
*Any changes in their eating, sleeping, activity, or pottying routines.
*No enjoyment from treats, play or other pleasures.
*Your dog has begun isolating.
*Your normally docile dog has acted aggressively. They may try to bite or growl to avoid being touched if in pain.
*Limping or favoring one side or area of their body.
*Shivering, drooling or panting when it’s not particularly hot or cold.
*Yelping or whimpering when moving or touched.
**Listen to your gut! If you feel something isn’t right don’t delay! Get them checked! Nobody EVER said, “Gee, I wish I’d waited longer to get my dog to the vet!”
I’ve been privileged to watch a few pups go from young puppies to ripe-old seniors and there’s something extra special about older dogs. Just like an infant, they’re totally reliant on you for their care. And while giving to them, you’ll be the one receiving a precious gift. You’ll truly feel unconditional love in action. Your heart will expand. You will become a much more humble compassionate person. You have the opportunity to become a hero. While you’re just one person in this great big world, to your dog you ARE the entire world and YOU make their life worth living.❤️🐾