November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month, so I’d like to share how adopting a senior companion has changed not only our lives, but the pets we’ve taken in as family.

In the spring of 2013, my family and I adopted a 13-year-old male Chihuahua named Calvin. Calvin had entered the rescue organization, at which I volunteer, under somewhat unclear circumstances. He was found as a stray and was microchipped; however, his previous owner’s contact information at that time was invalid. So, Calvin came home with me, to live with four humans, as well as an array of cats and other dogs. For a little over three years, he lived a wonderful life with my family until he passed away in the fall of 2016, leaving us as quietly and with as little fanfare as he did when he first came to us. Before and since Calvin became a member of my family, we have adopted other senior animals, including a 13-year-old cat, named Bubby, and another 13-year-old dog, named Cleo. When people learn of my senior adoptions, I am often met with surprise and inevitably statements that include,” I could never do this, knowing my time with that animal would be severely limited.” And my response is this: I would rather have limited days, months, and hopefully years with my beloved companion than no time at all. In addition, I often try to educate others on the numerous benefits of adopting a senior companion animal, and indeed there are many.

Each year, approximately 8 million companion animals enter shelters in the United States. Of these animals, over 2 million will be euthanized, and a large number (some estimates are as high as 25%) are senior animals. Often, these senior animals have entered shelters for no other reason than the inability of their owners to continue caring for them. The outlook for these animals is grim. According to the popular pet adoption website, Petfinder, the average “stay” of an animal on its website, before being adopted, is 12 weeks; senior animals often take four times longer to find homes.

So, why adopt a senior animal? There are so many good reasons. For one, the adage, “you get what you see,” holds true. Senior animals are fully grown, so there are no surprises as is the case when a person who thinks he is adopting a small breed puppy for small apartment living instead ends up with an 80-pound adult dog. With few exceptions, their personalities and temperaments are also set by this stage in their lives. In addition, a senior pet already has a history which makes his or her future much more predictable than that of a puppy or kitten.

Typically, with a senior animal, its manners are much more refined, and the rambunctious and destructive behaviors that may have defined its youth are now distant memories. Many senior animals have been provided behavior training by previous owners and have long been housetrained. Anyone with small children can attest that potty training their children and simultaneously housetraining a puppy are daunting tasks.

Although all dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation, senior pets can make wonderful additions for aging adults as well as families that have less active lifestyles and are searching for calmer, quieter companions without the time and efforts that a younger animal would require.

Contrary to the popular phrase about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks, an older dog is often more receptive than a puppy to learning because he typically has a better attention span, enjoys the attention he is getting from his new mom or dad, and is eager to please.

Finally, perhaps the best reason for adopting a senior animal is kindness. A senior animal, like any animal, deserves to spend its final years with a loving family. Ask anyone who has adopted a senior, and most will say that doing so has given them a sense of pride and a purpose, and what could be more rewarding than giving an older animal a loving home in which to spend his final years?

So, when you’re considering to add a furry companion to your family, don’t overlook the mature ones available at your local shelters or rescues. Below are some great organizations to visit.

SPAAR – http://www.seniorpetandanimalrescue.org

HOSPAWS – https://www.facebook.com/Hospaws

SENIOR HEARTS RESCUE & RENEWAL – https://www.facebook.com/seniorheartsrr/

ANIMAL FRIENDS – https://www.thinkingoutsidethecage.org

HUMANE ANIMAL RESCUE – https://www.humaneanimalrescue.org/

BEAVER COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY – https://beavercountyhumanesociety.org/

BUTLER COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY – http://butlercountyhs.org/

WASHINGTON COUNTY HUMANE SOCIETY – http://www.washingtonpashelter.org/

ANIMAL FRIENDS OF WESTMORELAND COUNTY – http://animalfriendswestmoreland.org/

ANGEL RIDGE ANIMAL RESCUE – http://angelridgeanimalrescue.org/

Article published by By Debbie Viducich