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 pilot.
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. -Sept. 2011
Adopting a Senior Dog
Written by Vikki