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7 Reasons Senior Dogs Make Great Adoptions

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Dog Month. Here's how a sweet old gray-muzzle will bring you joy.

 |  Nov 27th 2013  |   11 Contributions


My sweet senior dogs have left me and are now awaiting me at the Rainbow Bridge. (At least a gal can hope.) Surrounded as I am by young, boisterous canine beasts, I miss those old dogs' graceful, graying presence -- not to mention their sweet, low-maintenance ways -- every single day. November is National Adopt-a-Senior-Dog Month -- a fine time for adopters to consider welcoming home an elder statesdog -- and that makes me happy.

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Sheba and I walk off-leash not far from traffic. Photo by Wyatt Marshall.

Prolific author David Tabatsky wrote the book Beautiful Old Dogs. It's a lovely anthology of essays by boldface names including Marlo Thomas, Anna Quindlen, and Dean Koontz's dog Trixie, and its pages are illustrated with gorgeous photographs by the late Garry Gross. The tome was recently published by St. Martin's Press.

"I didn't become a dog person until I encountered Garry's exquisite photography, specifically his soulful portraits of senior dogs," Tabatsky says. The late photographer's motto in seeking out canine models was, "The older the better -- dogs with soul in their eyes." And, Tabatsky adds, "I've been converted to this sentiment."

Here are seven senior-dog adoption incentives. So bring a gray-muzzle home today and enjoy instant membership in AARP, or rather, AARF (the American Association of Retired Furpersons).

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Senior dogs are mellow and calm at home. Flat-coated retriever by Shutterstock

1. They're economic stimulus hounds

Because seniors are among the last to be adopted at animal shelters, adoption fees are often significantly reduced. Talk about an adopter's incentive: With the money you save, you can spring for, say, premium dog food or a couple of fun toys.

If, like me, you work at home, a senior canine (or a couple) makes the best company, lowering your stress so you can get the most out of a day's work. Dozing patiently by your desk, they'll help you remain calm -- and that's great for productivity.

2. They cure empty-nester blues

What better distraction for a lonely parent whose child just left for college than a sweet senior dog? Tabatsky is counting on it when his time comes: "As soon as my daughter graduates high school next year and joins her brother in that elite club of 18-year-olds leaving home, I plan to adopt a houseful of dogs, preferably older and wiser, who will understand my empty space and enjoy filling it as lovingly as possible."

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Don't be surprised if your senior dog wants to play. German Shepherd by Shutterstock

3. They help you let go of the fear of letting go

Some folks fret about getting attached to a senior dog, then losing them not long after adopting them. Please have no fear! The first dog of my adulthood, Daisy the Pit Bull, was about 6 when I adopted her. We enjoyed eight lovely years together, and I wouldn't trade that time for anything. I've also adopted superannuated seniors who've spent a year or less with me; but again, even that short time together was so worth it. Even in a short span of time, the love you give a senior -- especially one who was previously neglected -- is a beautiful thing, which will enrich not just the dog's life, but yours, too.

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Giving a previously neglected animal a new lease on life will enrich your life as well. Old Pit Bull by Shutterstock

4. They help reverse the clock, for the dog and yourself

Many adopters fear, wrongly, that a senior dog will have lots of health issues. And even if a dog has one or two issues, I've found that with TLC plus the right dietary and nutritional-supplement choices, a senior dog can take one last dip in the fountain of youth.

I fostered one hot mess of a senior Maltese who was overweight, with cloudy eyes and bald patches. I fed her wholesome food in strict portions; supplemented her diet with quality food, vitamins, coconut oil, herbs (milk thistle for those eyes, hawthorn for her heart), and spices; and bathed her in Neem oil. After a few weeks, little Sasha looked so youthful, no one believed she wasn't a youngster. You can reverse your own clock by trying the same nutritional regimen.

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Sasha, the Maltese I fostered.

5. They make dog walks slow and steady

Seniors' slow gait means you can enjoy relaxed strolls instead of power-walks -- plus more quality off-leash time, even in unfenced, outdoor areas where you'd never trust a young, hyper dog.

My sweet Border Collie, Sheba, used to love ambling along off leash on the grassy (or, in winter, snowy) knoll that is the parkway near our home. Despite traffic whizzing by in opposite directions on either side, I knew I could trust my wise old girlfriend not to make a mad dash under an oncoming car. Of course, for safety's sake, I never let her out of my sight.

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Old Golden Retrievers by Shutterstock

6. They'll surprise you

Don't think just because a dog is older she won't astonish you with bouts of youthful vigor and high spirits. At age 13, Sheba took a young male pup named Piggy under her wing; their relationship was so tender, affectionate, and playful.

It was a joy to behold them frisking about, especially when Piggy would push his food bowl in Sheba's direction in the ultimate gesture of hospitality. In the twilight of her life, my old gal found herself a sweet, handsome, younger beau -- which ought to give us all hope that it's never too late!

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My beloved Sheba. Photo by Wyatt Marshall.

7. They really do learn new tricks

Honest! All the senior dogs I've known have taken major life changes in stride. I'm convinced their adaptability, not to mention their eagerness to experience new phenomena and make new friends, can keep them youthful to the end. Sheba was young at heart right up to the day she passed away. 

Do you have wonderful memories of sweet senior dogs adopted in their golden years? Please share in the comments!

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