Deciding to get a dog is one of the most exciting things in life. But when so many senior dogs are spending year after year in shelters, is it time to challenge our idea of the ‘perfect pet’ when, perhaps, the dog we’re searching for may be right under our noses in the form of a grey-muzzled, cloudy-eyed companion? We think so.
When adopting a pet, most people go into auto-pilot mode and search high and low for the cutest, tiniest, and often, youngest dog they can find. We get it puppies are incredible and everybody loves them, but seniors also provide unforgettable moments and unconditional love no matter their age.
And whilst adopting a dog of any age is an amazing thing to do, a staggering number of golden oldies are just waiting for someone to take a chance on them - some spending their final days without the human connection every dog craves.
It’s currently December, the time of year that forces us into a natural reflection and contemplation. So to tie the two together, why are we less tempted to adopt an older dog when so many potential furry friends in shelters are waiting for someone to offer them a forever home?
Perhaps it's time we take a step back to examine our own internal prejudices that subconsciously dictate the type of pet we choose and what we can do to challenge this. Not only do we explore this throughout the article, but we also speak directly to Adrian and Spencer, the humans behind the Instagram account, @eugenetheseniordog.
Senior dogs are often overlooked for a simple reason; they’re not young enough. But dogs don’t have best-before dates and can provide you with laughter, love, and companionship for the rest of their lives, even if that’s only a few sacred years.
To note: Dogs are classed as seniors from as little as 5 years old depending on their breed and health conditions. As Great Danes only have a life expectancy of 8-10 years, a 7-year-old is considered a senior whereas a 7-year-old Cockapoo isn’t because they can live up to 15 years.
When it comes to adopting old dogs, there seems to be a preconception that they’re all in shelters because they have health and/or behavioural conditions.
Each dog faces individual circumstances, some are brought into shelters as pups, others are surrendered because their owner has passed or can no longer care for them - something we’ll touch upon later, and others are given up when they start to slow down and show signs of ageing.
But why is it that when things start to slow down, we look to get rid and find a replacement? Senior dogs contain just as much life as any puppy and can help you to slow down and appreciate life with newfound compassion and empathy.
Getting a dog of any age is a huge decision but with careful consideration and research, you can work directly with a rehoming centre to ensure you take on a senior dog that you can provide the best care for - something every dog requires at some point in their life, regardless of age.
Disregarding senior dogs because they’re more likely to develop health conditions means that entire groups of dogs are left with uncertain futures. Not to state the glaringly obvious but health conditions, illnesses, or accidents can happen in any year of a dog's life not just when they’re older.
Not every senior dog has behavioural or health issues and the repercussions of these damaging assumptions can leave them to be unadopted for many years. In actual fact, senior dogs are a gift and can provide us with the chance to work on our emotional maturity, compassion, and empathy.
Taking a chance on a senior dog could be the best decision you make. The benefits are paramount and we’re here to dig deep into what makes these cuties so special.
When you adopt any dog, you’re essentially saving a life. Senior dogs have a far less chance of being adopted compared to younger dogs and puppies because, often, people are looking for family pets or don’t want to commit to a pet who may present health issues.
But this seems to stem from a false notion that senior dogs equal problem dogs. This is completely untrue and reinforces damaging stereotypes leaving senior dogs to spend years alone in shelters.
As mentioned above, dogs of any age can develop health issues whether they’re 6 months or 16 years old. In addition to this, any reputable rehoming centre will also ensure that you’re matched with a dog who not only suits your lifestyle but to who you can provide the best quality of life for.
Taking a chance on a senior dog means you can wave goodbye to those puppy blues and hello to a (usually) calmer relationship with a dog who is more in tune with themselves and the world around them.
If you’re not familiar with the term ‘puppy blues’, allow us to explain. The puppy blues refers to that regretful moment when the new puppy you’ve brought home differs from the dreamy version you fantasised about for months.
The bond isn’t immediately there, they’re using your house like one giant toilet and they just won’t sleep. It’s an overwhelming feeling that can cause you to doubt if you were ever ready to get a pet in the first place.
However, it does go away with time. The puppy blues can make you feel like a bad owner but it’s a common theme when bringing home a new, and very young, pet. After the emotional challenges of the first few months, you can finally begin to enjoy and nurture the bond between you and your pup.
But this isn’t for everyone and can be a huge cause of stress for many, especially when no one talks about it. Adopting a senior is just one way to avoid the puppy blues and explore a different pet/owner dynamic.
In all honesty, senior dogs are generally much more relaxed. They don’t have the youthful chaos of a puppy and are highly likely to be housetrained meaning you don’t have to spend agonising hour after hour picking them up and placing them back down on a mat.
They will probably like to spend their day sleeping and joining you for daily walkies making the ultimate companion for a wide variety of lifestyles. Adopting a senior dog also means you are far less likely to have to worry about your favourite shoes being eaten or that book you’re reading being shredded to a pulp.
Whilst they might need a helping hand getting up onto the sofa and going outside from time to time, adopting a senior can open up your eyes to the reality of animal compassion.
Bringing a senior home allows them to (in some cases, finally) form a deep connection with a human. Sadly, some dogs have never had this bond before and whilst it can take some time for them to open up, once they do, the connection is unbreakable.
Senior dogs can change your outlook on life, providing you with more patience not only in caring for them but in the way you go about your day-to-day activities Whilst they might hobble along a bit on their walks and move about a bit slower than you’re used to, their sweet charm and presence is truly a joy to be around.
When life feels like it's going at 100mph, having a senior dog by your side can serve as a beautiful reminder to stop, slow down, and enjoy each moment as it comes instead of juggling a million tasks, deadlines, and due dates all at once.
Senior dogs often show a new lease of life once they’re adopted. Though we can’t communicate with our canine companions, there is an unspoken understanding between us.
Like wine, cheese, and all good things in life, dogs also get better with age. Though they may be older, their huge personalities truly know no bounds. Take @eugenetheseniordog, for example, an Instagram account built to document life with senior dogs and bring awareness to the joys adopting can bring.
Owners, Adrian and Spencer, currently live with a seemingly ever-growing pack of adorable dogs, most of them seniors and rescued from shelters. The stories they share focus largely on the day-to-day life with senior dogs as well as acknowledging some of the trivial questions received by followers such as, “I don’t know how you could do it. I’d get too attached” and “Why do you even adopt old dogs in the first place? Wouldn’t you rather have a puppy?”
Adrian shuts these questions down in the most incredible way, stating in one of her Instagram Reels, “you getting attached isn’t the worst case scenario…in my mind, the worst thing is the dog dying alone in a shelter”. But what makes @eugenetheseniordog so spectacular is not just the celebration of every one of their unique dogs but the recognition of their privilege.
Whilst they create the most perfectly executed videos to trending sounds with their bounty of rescue pups (see Emma in her jumpers), they also delve deeper into their awareness of privilege and the nuances within the rescue community. People don’t give up dogs because it’s fun, people give up dogs often due to systemic oppression that leaves them with no other option.
Both Adrian and Spencer are very aware of the advantages they face that allow them to do what they do. It is for this reason alone that they don’t tolerate any form of criticism or prying questions concerning their dog’s previous owners. More times than not, outrage is misdirected at owners who give up their pets, instead of the economic and systemic realities that force owners and pets to separate in the first place.
They also post informative content to help people understand the adjustments that may need to be made when living with a senior dog. And that’s all it is; an adjustment. Not a burden or a chore, but a different way to share your life with a dog and from the looks of it, it’s very fun.
Adrian and Spencer are compassionate pet parents and their loyalty to their senior dogs is truly unrivalled. Evidently seen in the attention given to all of them in equal measure and the commitments that they make to ensure each of their dogs is living life to the fullest every single day.
Speaking directly to Waggel, they say, “Adopting old dogs matters so much to us, in large part because it’s needed - so many old dogs find themselves homeless through no fault of their own, and they are typically the last dogs to get adopted at shelters. But, as much as it’s for them, it’s also for us. Anyone who has adopted or loved an old dog knows that it’s a really special kind of love. You don’t always know how long you’re going to get with them, so you focus on enjoying every day. We’ve also learned that not every old dog is frail or sickly!”
At Waggel, we know adoption isn’t a viable option for everyone, but if you are lucky enough to be able to adopt a dog or are thinking of learning more about the adoption process, all we can ask is that you take the time to consider a senior.
Choosing to adopt an older dog doesn’t just mean you’re taking home a new pet but you’re also taking home a new friend who is no stranger to the trials and tribulations of this thing we call life.
In a final note from Adrian and Spencer, they add, “Many old dogs, in a loving home, have the chance to have their second chance at really being a dog. Some of our old dogs aged in reverse after they’ve come home with us… and it’s really special to watch.”
The decision to adopt could change an old dog’s life and allow them to live out their final years feeling secure, safe, and loved. If you are in a position to do so, consider welcoming a golden oldie this Christmas and stopping them from spending another festive season in a shelter. We can assure you, the love that they can provide is enough to melt even Scrooge’s heart.
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