Family, Friends, and Fur by Zack Manko
Ah, November. With Halloween squarely behind us, we can finally start to safely mention “the holidays.” It’s a time for cool weather and crisp winds, a season where the trees are on fire with color and plaid makes a much-deserved comeback into the wardrobes of many. November also heralds time with friends and family—whether they walk on two legs or four. I know Sorsha is tail-wagging happy to see all her loved ones during this time of year.
However, not every dog is as lucky as my oversized pooch. While it is true that many, many animals have blessedly found homes this year, due in no small part to adoption drives like NBC’s Clear the Shelters 2020 Campaign, there is one group of pets that is adopted far less often than their counterparts—elderly animals.
Yes, sadly it is true. Old dogs, cats, and other critters do not get adopted as frequently as younger pets. In some ways, this is to be expected, as many individuals or families that want to add a furry friend to their pack look for someone they can maximize their time with. Additionally, puppies and kittens are adorable, and many people do not want to miss out on this phase. Finally, younger animals typically do not come trained, and teaching a pet to behave and act appropriately is a great task for younger kids, to teach them discipline and responsibility.
That being said, there are many, many great reasons to adopt an older animal, if you are able to. Here are just a few:
No Unwanted Surprises
One adoption pitfall that older animals avoid is that they typically do not surprise their new owners with unexpected or unwanted characteristics. For example, many pets up for adoption are of unknown origin or type. Mixed breed dogs are common, but so too are mistakes in identifying what these breeds are—you’ll be caught off guard when that Miniature Pinscher mix turns out to be a Doberman instead!
Similarly, most elderly dogs have already fully developed their personalities. Puppies that may seem sweet or low-key at the pet store or shelter suddenly develop rambunctious tendencies and discover copious amounts of energy when you bring them home. Unless you have a dog like Sorsha to pet them in their place, you’re in for a rude awakening.
Surprises like these are more than just inconveniences—they could damage the harmony and happiness of your household or the health of your pet. If the dog you adopt turns out to be much larger than anticipated, and your home is not equipped to handle an animal of this size, you’re in for a world of hurt.
Older dogs, however, avoid this problem. With them, you can clearly see how large they will be, and you can get a sense for their personality and temperament just by spending some time with them.
Built-in Upgrades Come Standard
Speaking of surprises, there’s less chance that an older dog will leave one of these on the carpet for you when you get home. Most older animals have been carpet or box-trained, which will save you time, effort, and frustration. Instead, you can spend all those hours just enjoying the time with your new furry friend.
Similarly, older pets have often learned some basic obedience lessons. They may be able to perform a few commands, and most likely understand that your dress shoes or the clothes in the laundry are not chew toys (we’re looking at you, Sorsha). These traits could save you time and money on cleanup, and stop you from having to make Dog Shaming post.
Speaking of training, one of the dark secrets of puppies that no one likes to mention is that when they have to go, you better take them—no matter if it is 2 AM, snowing, or if it is raining, well, cats and dogs. It’s like the little critters do not care about your sleep schedules or responsibilities.
Not so with older dogs. Elderly animals typically need a lot of rest for their own health, let alone the health of their owners. Thus, you’ll sleep a lot easier with an older chap than a young pup at the foot of your bed.
But the benefits do not stop there. Some people may want a young, active dog to take on hikes or runs, but many people just want a companion they can snuggle and spend some time with. In the case of the latter, adult pets are perfect. They still need exercise, but not as much as a younger animal.
Furthermore, they are more likely to be mellower, which is perfect for many people that just want a furry friend to hang out with. If you just want to chill, look for an adult dog or other pet, not a puppy or kitten.
They Recognize You as You
Additionally, older dogs are familiar with owners and humans as people instead of just a “concept.” That’s a bit heavy, so let me break it down.
Puppies tend to see humans in the abstract. They will not necessarily recognize individual people as “entities” but rather as sources of food or perhaps danger. They’re tiny animal brains have not developed enough to understand things other than in terms of survival.
Adult dogs, however, are much more sophisticated. They can recognize individual people as different persons, and will react accordingly. Their dog psychology is evolved enough that they can recognize you as you.
Still too complicated? Here’s the simple version: A puppy will see you as a source of food. An adult dog will see you as a source of love.
Old Dogs, New Homes
As I said, November is a time for friends and family. It is also Adopt a Senior Pet Month. If you are looking to add a new family member to your household, consider an older dog. You’ll be getting a friend for life, an animal you can rely on, one that won’t surprise you. You’ll also truly be saving a life.
Enjoy fall, enjoy your dog, and enjoy your family!