November has been designated as Adopt a Senior Pet Month, an initiative meant to bring awareness to older shelter pets who were surrendered by their previous owners. Studies cite age and breed type as two of the most important factors considered by potential adopters, and more often than not people will tend to adopt younger dogs over older ones.
We spent a day with Ginger, a Fitdog members, and her mom, Noel, to talk about what life is like with a senior dog, and why more people should be adopting older dogs.
FD: How did you and Ginger meet?
NK: Ginger has actually been a part of my family since she was a puppy. She decided she wanted to retire in Los Angeles, so about two years ago I brought her out here to live with me.
FD: Lucky dog. How have you noticed Ginger’s behavior change as she gets older?
NK: I think overall she’s mellowed out a ton. She’s not food aggressive like she used to be, and she doesn’t require as much activity as she used to. She still has such a loving spirit, but the energy isn’t there like it used to be.
FD: How have your responsibilities changed as Ginger has gotten older?
NK: When you have a puppy, you go through the process of training. You have to teach them how to go to the bathroom, discourage bad behavior, things like that. Having a senior dog requires a lot of trips to the vet, for instance, more frequent bathroom breaks, and different overall care.
FD: Specifically, what kind of care?
NK: As with any older dog, she’s had health issues that I try to keep at bay. She has tumors that I put frankincense oil on, she has an uncomfortable ear infection that I have to clean, and let’s just say her bladder isn’t what it used to be. She’s had her fair share of vet visits, but that’s the reality with any pet.
FD: What’s been positive about your experience with a senior pet?
NK: Well, she’s more independent than she was when she was a puppy. I know if I leave her home alone she won’t rip the couch up. She’s so loving and gentle, and it makes me happy to know that she’s spending her later years in a comfortable, calm home. She sleeps for most of the day, but when I come home from work she loves to play hide-and-seek with me where I’ll pop out and surprise her, and her little tail just goes and goes. It’s so cute. She still has to earn her treats, and I think that keeps her on her toes.
FD: What does she have to do for a treat?
NK: She knows that after she poops, she gets a carrot. She freaks over carrots, she loves them so much.
FD: That’s so cute! What are some misconceptions people have about older dogs?
NK: I think people underestimate how loving a senior pet can be. Most older dogs are still perfectly capable of everything a younger dog is. Sure, you might not be able to take them on extreme hikes or anything like that, and if that’s your thing you should probably adopt a younger dog, but she still loves going on walks, playing, and cuddling– all the things people expect about owning a pet. I personally find comfort in knowing that she can spend her final years in a comfortable home instead of a shelter. Other than the health stuff, she’s extremely low maintenance, and it’s important for dogs to know that they’re in a loving home.
FD: What advice do you have for people who are considering adopting a senior pet?
NK: Consider this: most older dogs who are in shelters came from loving homes that for whatever reason were unable to continue caring for them. You never know why a dog is in the shelter, and just because they have a few extra miles on their meter doesn’t mean they’re any less capable of loving you unconditionally, or that they were given up for behavioral reasons. Puppies have a much higher chance of getting adopted, but they too could end up back in a shelter. You just don’t know. I say if you want a dog but don’t want to go through the process of training, or your job requires long days, adopt a senior pet so you have someone to come home to that won’t destroy your house.
Ginger has been a club member since she moved to Los Angeles two years ago. On November 4th, she celebrated her 14th birthday. Cheers, Ginger!