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Why you should adopt a shel­ter pet.

The Citizens' Voice - - FRONT PAGE - From: Vet­street.com/dr. Patty Khuly VMD Judy Endo writes about pets. Con­tact her at [email protected]

Al­though Novem­ber has just ended, this topic is just too im­por­tant to not write about it. Novem­ber was “Adopt A Se­nior Pet” month. I cur­rently have two se­nior cats, and my “baby,” Smudge, will be 10 years old in April. It is the one year an­niver­sary (first week in De­cem­ber) that I lost both of my beloved se­nior dogs, Whit­ney and Ty. I have been cry­ing, a lot. My col­umn to­day is ded­i­cated to both of my beloved dogs, who took a piece of my heart with them.

If there’s one de­ci­sion that speaks vol­umes about a per­son’s ded­i­ca­tion to pets, it’s the will­ing­ness to take on the ar­guably need­i­est of all po­ten­tial adoptees — the aged. Ge­ri­atric an­i­mals are of­ten the least ap­pre­ci­ated and most dis­missed group of would-be res­cue pets. Al­though they have many pos­i­tive points, too many peo­ple balk at the prospect of po­ten­tially big­ger vet bills for se­nior pet health is­sues and a di­min­ish­ing life­span. That’s a ra­tio­nal take on the sub­ject. But it’s also per­fectly ra­tio­nal to say that old pets de­serve for­ever homes, just like the rest. Un­for­tu­nately, the truth is that se­nior pet adop­tions are not for ev­ery­one. Homes with small chil­dren or too-ram­bunc­tious fel­low house­mates are prob­a­bly not a per­fect fit. Nor is an older pet ideal for those who seek an ac­tive play­mate. De­spite these draw­backs, se­nior pets of­fer MANY more pluses than you might think:

They’re typ­i­cally trained

Older pets usu­ally come fully trained, and their been­there-done-that at­ti­tude shows. As such, they tend to in­te­grate more seam­lessly into new house­holds and are lower main­te­nance than a ram­bunc­tious puppy or mis­chievous kit­ten.

They’re calmer

Like their hu­man coun­ter­parts, older pets are in­clined to be mel­lower, re­quire less ex­er­cise and are eas­ier to han­dle, in gen­eral. For some house­holds, it’s the lure of the re­laxed that makes all the dif­fer­ence — for both the peo­ple and other pets in the house­hold. Se­nior hu­mans who are phys­i­cally un­able to take long daily walks can ben­e­fit from the com­pan­ion­ship of a se­nior dog, who is happy to go out­side to potty and quickly re­turn to the com­fort of the couch or nearby lap.

They’re gra­cious

Al­though adopters tend to worry about this, older pets can bond ev­ery bit as much as young pets — even more so in some cases be­cause of the ad­di­tional per­sonal as­sis­tance that some of them re­quire. It’s no se­cret that the bond be­tween hu­mans and pets seems to ac­cel­er­ate with age. I al­ways be­lieved that I could only truly bond with a young puppy. That is, un­til I res­cued my two and a half year old Aussie, Ty. He came to me with is­sues (lack of con­fi­dence, aloof, ter­ri­fied of men). Af­ter six months in my house­hold Ty be­came a to­tally dif­fer­ent dog. He was con­fi­dent, se­cure, al­ways lov­ing, and to­tally devoted to me.

All of this said, older pet adop­tions do have their unique con­sid­er­a­tions. To make your se­nior adop­tion pro­ceed as smoothly as pos­si­ble, here’s what I rec­om­mend that po­ten­tial owners al­ways keep in mind:

Find the right res­cue

Al­most all shel­ters and res­cue groups have se­nior pets avail­able for adop­tion. Some are bet­ter at help­ing you out with their spe­cial needs than oth­ers, such as res­cue groups that are ex­clu­sively ded­i­cated to plac­ing older pets, such as my good friend Bar­bara from Mureille’s Se­nior Dog Sanc­tu­ary.

Brush up on se­nior pet is­sues

Con­sider re­search­ing the sit­u­a­tions that you may face and the prod­ucts that you may need. This de­pends on the phys­i­cal con­di­tion of the pet you are adopt­ing. Many se­niors are in good health with no med­i­cal is­sues.

Ge­ri­atric-proof your home

Af­ter tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion a pet’s health con­cerns — ev­ery­thing from vi­sion and hear­ing loss to ex­er­cise in­tol­er­ance and or­tho­pe­dic problems — an older adoptee’s new home should be pre­pared for his ar­rival. As Whit­ney grew older, arthri­tis con­trib­uted to her strug­gling on stairs. I had a ramp in­stalled into the back­yard to give Whit­ney and se­nior dog Ty easy ac­cess in and out of the house. Ac­cess to cer­tain high-risk ar­eas, like pools and stairs, may need to be re­stricted. And slip­pery sur­faces must be min­i­mized for some older pets. For ge­ri­atric cats, in par­tic­u­lar, easy ac­cess to mul­ti­ple litter boxes is also highly rec­om­mended.

Con­sider pet in­sur­ance or a pet health care sav­ings plan

Ge­ri­atric pets may come with pre-ex­ist­ing health is­sues. And even when they don’t, it’s likely that some might be just be­yond the hori­zon. Since it’s hard to know how long your older pet will live, it’s a great idea to get started on a fi­nan­cial plan in ad­vance. I strongly rec­om­mend that owners ei­ther pur­chase a pet health in­sur­ance pol­icy for se­nior pets or start sav­ing a set amount of money each month for fu­ture ex­penses.

En­list your vet­eri­nar­ian’s help

Be sure to ask for a com­pre­hen­sive phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion and ba­sic lab­o­ra­tory test­ing. And don’t be shy about dis­cussing how of­ten your older pet should be seen, what nu­tri­tional con­sid­er­a­tions he/she rec­om­mends, and which pre­ven­tive or ba­sic main­te­nance mea­sures you should be tak­ing. Your trusted vet­eri­nar­ian is al­ways an ex­cel­lent source for ad­vice and ed­u­ca­tion.

In sum­ma­tion

Here’s hop­ing that I’ve en­ticed at least a few of you to con­sider tak­ing in some oldies, who re­mind us that ev­ery sin­gle day we spend with our pets is ab­so­lutely pre­cious.

When you bring a se­nior buddy home, do re­mem­ber that prime of his life is over. Though you both will cher­ish this as­so­ci­a­tion, it is go­ing to be a short one. A ma­ture adult dog, say at 6 or 7 years of age can live a healthy life for an­other 6-7 years but will re­quire reg­u­lar care from your end. Your in­put will be higher if you adopt a se­nior dog at 10 years of age but the union is go­ing to be even shorter.

Be emo­tion­ally pre­pared for this, but do not let this af­fect the bond­ing you both share in this short span of time. In the words of the very ex­pe­ri­enced se­nior pet care­taker Bar­bara Nul­let-yackel of Mureille’s Se­nior Dog Sanc­tu­ary, “It is not what the dog or cat can do for you, it is what you can do for the dog or cat. Live each day to the fullest. Make a bucket list. Have a birth­day party, take your dog for ice cream or to the beach.”

Cel­e­brate life. None of us knows how long we will be on this Earth.

Fol­low the wis­dom of an­i­mals. Live in the present, and em­brace it.

Dog bless.

JUDY ENDO Paws-itive Pet Tales

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