In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

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This amazing post was written by Tuesdi Woodworth, one of the founders of Miracle GSD Rescue. (Check them out on Facebook.) We have adopted two seniors in our over 20 years of welcoming rescued German Shepherd Dogs into our lives. We wouldn’t trade our time with Sydney or Cinder for anything!

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Our Cinder (adopted two years ago at age 8)

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Our girl Sydney (gone to the Rainbow Bridge) adopted at age 8

As Miracle GSD Network closes in on our 800th Miracle Dog Rescue, we are proud to say that approximately 100 of them have been age 7 or older. At the same time it saddens us. We wish we could help more of the seniors – but to do that we need to help people understand the joy of adopting and fostering them – these dogs are passed over time and time again, because “It would be too hard to lose them so quickly.”

November is “Adopt a Senior” month. Almost all of the rescues that Miracle partners with have seniors in their programs. Wonderful seniors that are just…..WAITING for a home. And waiting. And waiting. They (and WE here at Miracle) would love to help more of them, but they cannot do it without more fosters and adopters! Everyone always wants the rescues to help the seniors and they get emails and messages by the dozen about it. But how can we save more when they can’t find them homes? When they know they will be there for months and months, because so many people pass them over because they want young dogs. It is just….WRONG. We have to somehow convince more people that adopting a senior is a wonderful thing! Your time with them will be extra special, even if it is a little shorter. How do we convince you? We thought by sharing the story of Miracle Dog #00 – King – might help!

I am sorry that this is going to be long – this is something I am really passionate about it. Please, Please – take the time to read it! I hope that we can convince even ONE person to adopt/foster a senior.

First – All of us at Miracle GSD are so grateful to the fantastic rescues that we work with! They all do their best to help senior dogs when they can, but they all have the same problem…convincing people to adopt them. People want puppies. People want “young” dogs. The Rescues can’t save nearly as many seniors as we would like them to. They simply don’t have space. Seniors tend to stay at the rescue longer, most of the time they can only have one or 2 in residence – as they could be there for months until adoption. That space would turn over multiple times in the same time period with younger dogs. So – they have to be careful. Their hands are tied. When a senior dog ends up in the shelter, it rips all of our hearts out. Yours, too! We all scream for help, and beg rescues to take them. SO – we ALL want these dogs safe, and we all agree they are SO deserving. If that is the case, then WHY aren’t we all ADOPTING OR FOSTERING THEM? Obviously, there are some valid reasons people cannot help a senior. Maybe they have a dog that is not dog friendly and can’t take another. Maybe they can’t afford some of the medical care that might be needed – mobility drugs or that sort of thing. Maybe they live in a home with lots of stairs just to get into it. And of course there are other good reasons.

But do you know what we hear most of all as a reason? “I would take him if I could, but I just can’t do it because I would be too sad that they would leave me too quickly- I couldn’t take it.” Now THIS- this is NOT a valid reason. That comes from fear, and it is selfish. Harsh words, I know. But hey – I can remember saying them, myself a few years ago – so I get why someone uninformed might think that. (Boy was I uninformed, then!). Let me tell you my personal story.

I’ve had German Shepherds, raised from pups, for over 25 yrs. Also rescued greyhounds for the same length of time. A few years ago, when our greyhound passed, we went back to the rescue to adopt another – they had several available under 2 years old. We had a GSD pup at the time, our second, and he was about 6 months old or so. Well – we got there, and they brought out the first girl to see us. OH MY, was she sweet and beautiful. She was a lovely golden color, and so soft and sweet. She slowly ambled up to us, gave us kisses, and went to lie on a bed, I loved her! They said “This is Tillie. She was adopted from us, and her owner died, so she has come back. She’s 8 years old.” MY HEART SANK. EIGHT? I said, umm we said we wanted a dog under 2. He said, Oh – I know. I just wanted you to see her because we really need to find her a home. We will go get another, younger one. He left Tillie there, looking at us, while he brought out the next one. She was adorable, too, and about 2 years old. Fearful, and tiny. Typical greyhound rescue that had just arrived from the track. We will take her, we said. But we kept looking over at Tillie. This beautiful, soulful girl. We just could NOT walk out without her. So we took both dogs. What a fantastic dog Tillie was! We NEVER even thought of her as a senior – she was just a quiet, fun loving presence in our home. She was with us about 3-4 years when she took ill, and we were unable to save her. How I cried when she went, but I knew we had given her a great life. We still had the GSD, now an adult, and the other grey. It never occurred to us that we had done anything special – and again we never thought about her being a senior.

A few years later, my GSD Hobie contracted a fast spreading cancer. He was only 7 years old. The last GSD I had had from puppyhood had lived 14 years, and died of old age. I did everything medically that I could to prolong Hobie’s life, but he died at 7. The weeks before he died (and I knew the end was coming) we did a ton of stuff together, a bucket list of sorts, and the time was super special. I savored every minute because I knew he was not going to be there soon. It was awful when he passed. But I knew I had given him a great home.

So I found myself dog-less. Ok for a few months while I grieved. During that time, I started to see more and more German Shepherds on Facebook popping up needing rescue, mostly in California. I had NO idea this was going on! I am in Maine – we don’t have thousands of dogs in shelters. And a GSD in a shelter would be very rare. I was blown away by what was happening around the country, which until then I hadn’t been aware of! And amongst all those dogs were seniors. Sweet, elderly, beautiful dogs betrayed. I had been planning on getting another GSD pup….but…..the more I saw these dogs, the more I thought – maybe I should help a senior dog. It might be easier – I wouldn’t have to housetrain a pup, run home from work to let them out…etc etc. The idea kept growing, and I kept seeing more and more of them. So I decided. I WOULD do it. I would save an OLDER dog that was on death row! So I did – with help – save a senior dog that was euth listed from a shelter in CA. I won’t go into the mechanics of how that was done here to move the story along. I was so proud, and excited. I had to wait a couple of weeks for his transport, and I was telling everyone here at home about it, and they almost all were asking me “Why would you put yourself through this again! You lost Hobie just a few months ago, and this is an old dog! He won’t be around for long and you will be heartbroken again!” And I kept saying – I will be OK. I am doing a good thing for this dog. I am saving his life! I’d thought and thought about it.

So – King arrived. The shelter estimate was 10 yrs old, I believe he was younger. 8 maybe. He seems to be around 12-13 now. He’s slowed down but he is still pretty active. I’ve had him longer than I thought I would. Can I tell you the JOY that this dog has brought me? He bonded to me the second he saw me. That very day. Don’t let anyone EVER tell you an older dog won’t bond with you. Don’t let anyone EVER convince you that you can’t train an older dog. I’ve checked adoption apps and done interviews for rescues and I have had people tell me that they don’t want an adult dog because of those very reasons. I’ve had them tell me that they want to have a young dog to grow up with their children. I DO understand this, I DO. But how about teaching your children some empathy, too, around this important issue. Imagine bringing a senior into your home, and teaching your kids the value of that – having them grow up with that kind of compassion for older animals? You know how I said when my Hobie was dying, I had a few weeks that were very special with him? We did bucket list sort of things, and the time was super special. With King – we live every day like that since the day he got to me. Because I don’t know how much time he has left, so from the day he arrived – our time has been special! That is how it is when you adopt a senior! And King is responsible for saving HUNDREDS of lives himself, because HE was the reason Miracle GSD Network was formed – his story brought our group together! He started it all! We call him Miracle Dog #00.

Seniors give SO much, and you need to do SO LITTLE in return. Seniors are easy. They are grateful. They fit into most households and packs easily. DO NOT BE AFRAID! When I lost my first GSD at 14, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lost my second GSD at 7, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lose King, I will be devastated. My heart will be broken. BUT – THIS time will be a little different. There will be a SWEETNESS, too. He would have been dead 4 years ago, if I hadn’t rescued him. Didn’t he deserve those years? I know his last 4 years were better than the prior ones he had lived. And he would have died in a cold, unforgiving place after enduring the crappy life he had been served up – would that have been fair? Because he was old? NO – I gave him something, and he gave me – and the rescue community something. So THIS time – with the sadness will be the sweetness.

Adopting a senior is a joyful experience, not a sad one – you will NEVER regret it. I promise. I would, and will, do it again with no hesitation, until there are no more abandoned seniors being euthanized in shelters. Adopt or foster a senior! From a shelter OR a rescue! If you adopt or foster a dog from a rescue then you are giving them space to save another – you are saving a beautiful life! Please consider it – you can make a wonderful difference in the life of an old dog!

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The wonderful King – Miracle Dog #00

You can read more about Miracle GSD Network here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/310605105708097/

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Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

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