It is adopt a senior pet month! Because I have such a soft spot in my heart for the wise ones, I am sharing with you some of the biggest considerations when opening your heart and home to these wonderful grey muzzles.
1. It is a commitment.
The commitment of your attention, patience and understanding are guaranteed to be substantial. I have been fortunate enough to have shared my life with many dogs over my lifetime. Nobody could really ever explain, unless in hindsight, the adaptations your life may need to undergo in the name of love for your aging pet. You can never really predict or prepare for any situation because no two dogs are the same. You can, however, commit to be present and patient and this will allow you to provide for and make decision as challenges may arise.
2. What if they don't bond with you?
There are a lot of blogs and articles talking about the loyalty and wisdom of an older pet. I could not agree more. My heart melts every time I see a grey muzzle. Remember, this beautiful animal that you are considering bringing home has a past. You may know their history or maybe you don't. It is important not to let their past become the filter you use when you interact with them. Our human projections can get in the way. Be present. Pay attention. It may take time for you to have the bond you dreamed of and there is also a chance they may not ever fully trust you. Their history is long and you weren't there for it. Don't take it personally. Love them just as they are so you are creating the space for them to trust you. Don't force anything.
3. Their story may be bad.
Their story is their past. See them here and now and respond to the dog in front of you. Don't dismiss a behavior or issue by relating it to their sad story. It's a guess at best and even if you are correct, it won't help them. They need a leader to show them that they are in a new pack and they are safe. They pick up on your energy and follow suit. Let their story go. You will both be happier and more secure if you become their leader.
4. Your lifestyle WILL have to change.
Their physical and cognitive health changes and you will have to make modifications to many things.
- Their ability to hold their bowel and bladder for long periods of time decreases and you may have to modify your schedule or get some help.
- They may become incontinent and have accidents. There are many things that may need to be modified so your house doesn't get wrecked. I created the Sydney Sleep Mattress with this in mind.
- They will lose their hearing and this will cause them to bark more.
- They will lose their vision and this will make it dangerous for them to navigate without supervision.
- Hearing and vision decline causes anxiety.
- Strength and mobility issues can make your space a danger zone when left unattended.
- Cognitive decline can cause them to do things they normally would not do and that can be dangerous.
- Their skeletal systems need support . Couches and beds become dangerous as they decline. They must have a comfortable and supportive orthopedic surface to rest.
5. It can be expensive.
The older they get, the bigger the chance there is for major health problems that can be very expensive. They also need special diets and supplements.
We all want to believe our children are the kindest and gentlest souls on the planet. Kids can be kind and gentle and still cause harm to an animal. Senior dogs can be fragile. They can also be cranky. Also, remember that this senior pet is in an entirely new environment with failing senses. This creates a natural insecurity. They could bite and hurt a child or the child could hurt them. Protect them both by not leaving them together without your supervision.
7. There will be accidents.
There is a chance that is the reason why a senior pet is surrendered to a shelter or rescue. It is also very likely that they will become incontinent in the time that you have them. There are ways to deal with it, but, it can cause you stress so you should consider this before you sign up for it.
10. There will be heartache.
You will love them before you know it. Have them an hour or 10 years, it will not matter.
When you commit to any dog, you commit to doing what is best for them and sometimes that requires making heart-wrenching decisions that you will struggle with. You can never be prepared for this, but, it is the reality of loving such a wonderful creature.
These are just some of the challenges we face when we open our heart and homes to these wonderful animals. There are no bad dogs. All dogs deserve a safe home to live out their years. A stressful environment is not safe.
Knowing what you are getting into can help alleviate some of the stress and if you find yourself feeling stress, guilt or confusion, reach out. I have had my fair share of experiences and have come up with tools and resources I could not live without and I am happy to share with you.