Most people instantly feel some form of sadness when they walk into a diner and see an elderly person sitting alone; I often wonder why these emotions don't carry over universally towards senior animals. Does that person have a family? Has he or she become an inconvenience? How can people just give up on something that's been in their lives for so many years? All of these unanswered questions hurt my heart.
With "love" comes a pretty great responsibility. You must make time, devote your compassion, and care unconditionally. When it comes to family members and human relationships in general, that can often get messy and complicated. However, you must consciously make the choice to own an animal; and with that decision comes a permanent commitment. Or at least that's how it should be. If it were up to me, you would have to pass a test and earn your spot into being a pet parent. These dogs did not ask to be adopted by you, and they sure as hell did not ask to get dumped at a shelter when they're old, fragile, attached, and need you the most.
Being involved with animals my entire life, and now currently being employed at an animal shelter, I have seen endless amounts of bouncy-happy puppies get adopted with ease. Most people won't even glimpse the older dogs, and if they're polite enough to even let us attempt to tell them the story of an older dog, we are usually repaid with an earful of ignorant comments and empty concerns about the dog dying immediately following the adoption. Everyone loves a cute puppy, right? I am convinced people must forget that babies turn into adults, and puppies turn into bigger, older dogs. That being said, I have grown an obvious soft spot for old dogs.
I am currently in love with a dog at my job we named Jeeves; I tell people he is my little boyfriend. He is a miniature pinscher, at least 10 years old. He came to us with little known history, but most likely had been owned by someone most of his life. He was in obvious pain, his body was distorted from untreated arthritis, and he was very sad. He has been with us for a few weeks now and is finally on all the right medications. With all the love and care from our staff and volunteers, he is now very happy, wags his little nub tail, and even has a little pep in his little old-man step.
There are so many great reasons to consider adopting an older dog. They are usually on the calmer side and can focus easily, so contrary to popular belief, you can absolutely teach an old dog new tricks, though most adoptable older dogs have most likely lived in a household environment and usually won't need much training in basic commands. Older dogs have normally heard and understand what "no" means, and they are very commonly already house-trained! That means instead of lining your floors with all your old newspapers, you can donate those newspapers to your local shelter! Another great thing about adopting an older dog is that they are not teething! You won't come home and find your favorite pair of shoes chewed up because they got bored and just needed something to chew on. (That said, for dogs of all ages, you should provide multiple bones and toys to keep them occupied if you are gone during the day.) In most cases, senior dogs are way more independent than puppies, meaning you will still have time for yourself, and you can most likely get a full night's sleep, because they often don't need to be let out midday or overnight because they can hold it!
Of course, each dog is case by case, and adopting a dog at any stage of life is a major adjustment for both the human and animal. There may be some house-training accidents, and there may be some health scares! (I've seen just as many puppies suffer from health issues as I have old dogs.) The moral of the story is to continue to give unconditional love a chance, and the next time you are contemplating adoption, consider a senior. Acknowledge that with adopting an animal you are making a permanent commitment, and this precious being is completely dependent on you. Live with good intentions, love with an open heart and respect your elder dogs!