|Adopting a Senior Dog
Written by Vikki
I have been fostering and rescuing dogs for over 10 years now. I started out with St. Bernards and have
downsized to Labradors. Snickers and Hershey are our 2 rescued chocolate labs that currently run our
household. My husband, Kevin, often tells people that we like to “buy used” when it comes to dogs!
I have always had a soft spot for senior dogs. One of our most memorable senior rescues was a
chocolate lab named Sadie. Sadie was 10 years old at the time she was surrendered, completely blind
with only one eye and had a tumor the size of a small volleyball on her side. To us, Sadie was beautiful
and we loved her instantly.
Many people are hesitant about adopting a senior dog and I hear many different reasons for not wanting
to take on an older dog.
“We want to experience the puppy phase”
These are usually people who have never had a Labrador puppy before. The rest of you are
remembering those puppy months when your precious new addition to the family chewed through your
$240 new shoes that you told your husband you got on sale for $49.99. Or the antique table you and
your spouse bought before you had kids that survived the teething phase of both your children only to
end up as a chewing post for your new puppy. How easily we all forget the boundless energy puppies
possess and are possessed by.
Sadie came already potty trained and was well passed the stage of exploring with her teeth. She was
more than happy to curl up at your feet (or more often on the couch beside you) and snooze the
afternoon away. Yes……… the sweet sound of a dog gently snoring and not the pounding torrent of my 4
year old chocolate lab (yes, we have rescued younger dogs), Hershey, bouncing off the walls with “are
we going, are we going, are we going” excited glow in his eyes when you even move in slightest direction
of his lead.
“I want a dog that I can train”
The old myth that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is just that – a myth. Sadie was deemed a
difficult adoption due to her blindness and inability to climb stairs. Within the first 2 days of being in our
house Sadie had mastered the stairs, going up and coming down. By the first week she was navigating
herself out the front door, down the steps of the veranda, around the front yard and into the school yard –
unassisted! Never mind that our little Sadie could pinpoint the cookie jar with the accuracy of a fighter
Of course some training will still be required. For example, you may wish to teach your lab that
decorative throw pillows are not drool catchers during a mid-afternoon nap, or that the green bin is not to
be used for buffet dining, or that sleeping horizontally across the bed is not an efficient use of space. No
dog is perfect and all dogs require some training and guidance to fit in with your lifestyle and home.
“My kids want to name their dog”
I have re-named almost all of the dogs that I have rescued. Shrek, Ralphie and Molson adapt readily to
their new names Abner, Rosie (yes, she was a girl) and Noah. We have even fostered a senior dog that
was raised with commands only in Croatian. With a little work this particular dog grasped the English
commands and is now bilingual!
“We want an active dog”
We are still talking about labs here, right? “Senior” dog does not mean decrepit and dead. While my 2
younger labs sat on the shoreline one summer, pondering if their fur would go curly in the humidity, Sadie
was half way across the lake, swimming to her heart’s content. Older labs will slow down; as does any
dog, but with a good diet and proper exercise many stay active well past 12 years of age.
“We are worried about temperament”
A hundred years of breeding has instilled loyalty, athleticism, agility, obedience (Hershey must be
defective in this area), intelligence, the ability to hog all the covers on the bed, smell a package of cheese
being opened 3 rooms away and eat anything in sight – including what has been nailed down! Known for
their often boisterous, fun-loving antics, Labradors mature around the age of 3 and settle into wonderful
family companions known for their gentleness. This temperament seems to shine through even more as
labs age. Many senior dogs are surrendered through no fault of their own. Their owners have passed
away or the family is too busy to take care of them. They are just looking for a home that will love them
and give them feet they can curl up. Oh, and a full cookie jar makes the transition all the more blissful.
“Senior dogs only live a short time and the pain of losing another dog will be too much”
Sadie lived for 4 beautiful, loving and memorable years with us. And while that may seem a short time to
many of you, it was all Kevin and I needed to love Sadie and share in what Sadie gave to us. When Sadie
came into our home it was like she had always been there. Like so many dogs before her, Sadie
instantly made herself at home in our home and in our hearts. Whether they are with you for 1 year or 4
years, it feels like a lifetime because you soon forget what life was like before they graced your life with
their presence. One year with a dog that gives you that much love and devotion is worth all the pain of
losing them when it is their time to go.
In rescuing dogs, I have always tried to maintain a positive outlook. Many of these dogs would be
euthanized or live out less than ideal lives without our intervention in adopting them. While it breaks our
hearts every time we lose one of our fury friends, I am stead fast in the knowledge that we gave them the
best life in the time they had with us and that each dog knew we loved them.