Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Old Dogs

You guys may have heard me talk about all the dog fostering I’ve done in the last 14 years or so. Before I had kids, I would have 3-4 fosters at a time, plus my own pack of dogs and at last count, my foster number is hovering somewhere around 300 (possibly over). So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of dog stories, and not even all of them are gross. 
Since the arrival of the boy monkey children, I’ve pretty much stuck to just fostering puppies. There are several reasons for this,  chief among them is that with getting dogs from the shelter, you never know if they’re going to try and gnaw your child’s arm off. Also, little kids can be little terrors around dogs, even if the dog is perfectly friendly, even if you’ve tried to raise your children to treat animals respectfully. Kids do stupid things sometimes and you can’t always catch it before there’s a bad reaction. Just the other night, I saw Rowan out of the corner of my eye look like he was about to put both legs on either side of the back of Hudson, our 10 year old golden retriever mix. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled and he jumped right off. “DUDE, DO NOT DO THAT.” Poor Hudson looked at me with gratitude and an expression that clearly read, “Thank you for not making me take the boy out.”  Now, did my kid know that trying to ride the dog like a pony was a terrible, no good idea? Yes. Did he do it anyway?  Reminder, this is the same kid who PEED ON THE WALL this week.   The point is, it’s just been safer for me to foster puppies who are possibly the only creatures on this earth who do dumber things than 4 year old boys with no boundaries (or pants).
Don't get me wrong, for the most part, puppies are a lot of fun. I get the milk breath and fuzzy kisses and then hand them off to their new families right around the time they start considering electrical cords to be excellent snacks. People often ask, don’t I get too attached to the puppies and have a hard time saying goodbye?  I laugh.  Do you have any idea how expensive the cords for MacBooks are?   
If I had my preference and I didn’t have to worry about my kids harassing or disturbing their old dog naps, I absolutely would prefer to foster Senior Dogs.  Seriously, for the most part, the seniors have been some of my most favorite fosters over the years.  I just adore old dogs. They’re so laid back. They’re like The Dudes of the Dog Universe. All they want is a comfy robe and a White Russian. There aren’t any surprises with them, their personalities are set. They don’t all of a sudden decide one day to tunnel to the outside world through the drywall in your living room (actual thing that has happened at our house).  They like to nap (a lot) which is perfect for me because I, too, love to nap.  They may not be able to go on long hikes up mountains, but they can certainly be counted on for a nice leisurely stroll without pulling the arm out of your socket.  Sometimes people don’t like the older dogs because there can be increased vet costs, but you know, that’s not always true. And if you get a senior dog from a reputable rescue group, often times the rescue group will have taken care of the dog’s medical needs in advance or have a program in place that helps sponsor older adoptees (like my group's  Enduring Love and Seniors for Seniors programs, but lots of groups have other programs too).
Sometimes people don’t want to commit to a Senior dog because they want a dog that’s going to be around for 10-15 years, not one that’s going to “die soon” (oof).  First, I’m just going to put this out there and I’m not calling anyone out specifically, but let’s face it:  if everyone on the planet was truly honest about how long their commitment to their animals was going to last, we wouldn’t have senior dogs in the shelters to begin with now would we?  
 It’s not so bad loving a dog for only a few years before they leave us. In fact, I think it's a special kind of privilege.  You get to be the last great thing this dog ever knew, a chance to erase any of the bad stuff that came before you. There’s beauty in that, a gratitude they have for you that just doesn’t come from a puppy who is probably eating the lining out of the left arm of your couch right now. The love of a puppy is freely given, anyone can get it. The love of an old dog is earned, but the cost isn’t that high. Just a soft warm bed, a quiet place where they can rest and be safe, maybe a little piece of your heart. I think it's so worth it. 

November is National Adopt a Senior Dog Month, get on it!


Unknown said...

This is absolutely true. I love each and every foster that we've had. No matter the length of time we have them, each has left a stamp of their paw print on our hearts.

Anonymous said...

What a great article! Senior dogs rule!