Woof Wednesday: Old Fogey Pets

My first Furry Muse--at age 13 or so--still lives in my heart.

November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month and so this month the blog will cover a number of the old-pet issues. I’ll be channeling my “inner pet” since Seren-Kitty is now a senior citizen.  If you’ve got an “old fogey” kitty over the age of 14, I’d encourage you to read last week’s Feline Friday on foiling feline senility.

Of course, in my “other job” I’m the Puppies Guide at about.com, and with the holiday’s approaching, I suspect there will be lots of interest in puppy-licious info about youngsters. So why adopt an “old” dog (or cat) instead?

BENEFITS OF ADOPTING OLDER PETS

Puppies go clear off the “cute factor” scale, and there’s nothing more endearing than a kitten. These critters are works-in-progress, exciting yet difficult to predict, nonstop fun but also magnets for trouble. It requires much time, patience, and understanding to forge the kind of bond with puppies and kittens that we take for granted with our older furry friends.

Mature pets have many advantages over youngsters. Probably the biggest advantage is that together you have created a partnership, and already know each other and have adjusted to individual needs and foibles. All the hard work is done.

Your dog has learned not to chew the TV remote control or your shoes, except for the old house slipper she’s carried around like a teddy bear since you brought her home 10 years ago. She’s been house trained and tells you when she needs to “go”—and you know just how many hours you can be away from home before she’s in dire straits.

Your cat no longer climbs the Christmas tree, unrolls the toilet paper, or swings from the drapes. He knows not to excavate the potted palm or play ping-pong with the parakeet. And he only rearranges your sock drawer if you’re gone overnight and he’s bored or lonely.

Your older pet reminds you when it’s time for a pill and afternoon nap—for both of you. And she acts like the new baby belongs to her, and showers the infant with attention, gentle play, and protective care—even putting up with toddler tail tugs with a patient purr or doggy grin. Countless children have learned to walk while grasping the furry shoulder of a canine friend, or reaching out for that tempting feline tail.

WHY WE LOVE THEM SO

It’s not unusual for young people to say that one special cat or dog has always been a part of their life. In times of family crises or emotional upset, the pet can ease the tension and help heal the pain simply by being there. A broken heart, disagreements with siblings or parents, even physical or emotional trauma can all be helped by the mere presence of a cat or dog that the child loves.

Adopting a mature pet can be a great choice for children. They can be a stabilizing influence, teach responsibility and empathy for other living creatures, and even act as a bridge toward making friends. For example, a child shy of interacting with other kids because of a perceived disability often comes out of her shell when accompanied by a furry friend. The pet remains the focus of interaction rather than the child’s “different” look or behavior. These therapy animals, called “social pets,” have an important job to do, just by offering nonjudgmental love and acceptance.

Even when pets are not officially a “therapy” animal, cats and dogs who have spent many years with us have learned what we like and expect—and we’ve learned to anticipate the senior pet’s needs, likes, and dislikes. We build and then enjoy a comfortable companionship together. After sharing our life experiences, successes and failures, joys and sorrows, these pets come to represent milestones in our lives. They may have celebrated with us when we graduated school, married, and had children or grandchildren—or comforted us when we divorced, retired, the kids moved away, or we lost a spouse.

They have been there for us, through everything. The more time we spend together, the greater our affection grows. Take it from me—and my senior citizen Seren-kitty. With old fogey pets, our compassion, love, and empathy for each other reach a depth that has no parallel in human existence.

SPECIAL THANKS

This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Comments

Woof Wednesday: Old Fogey Pets — 11 Comments

  1. Love my old girl Gracie the yellow Lab. She retired from her therapy dog job this year, had some teeth pulled (our vet said many dog teeth are highly overrated LOL), loves her chiro vet, and is the love bug of our house. She walks slowly enough now that I can keep up with her, stops everyone along her route just to say hi, and is still spry enough to chase the wild rabbit under the porch. We are making sweet memories in her senior years.

  2. Our special darling kitty is Oscar & he is six now. Thanks for the article & the chance to win a book that we’ll need for Oscar in the future. He had some rough times in his life before we rescued him and we hope he will enjoy many more years as our pampered indoor pet. I always tell him he needs to make it to 30 or as close as he can get.

    • Hi Brenda–Yes, I keep telling Seren that she has to beat the Granpaws Rex kitty record (34 years I believe!). How lucky that you found each other!

  3. Our mini rat terrier Earl is unbelievably hearty in body and mind but his eyesight is failing. We turn more lights on for him now that the mornings are darker and we wait patiently for him to walk up and down stairs, he’s very hesitant but is so proud when he gets to the top or bottom independently. One day, he won’t be able to do this and we’ll be happy to pick him up and take where he needs to go. He’s been with us for ten years and he’s been a funny, happy companion for each member for my kids and now that they have dogs of their own, it’s fun to see Earl as ringleader for grand puppies “Jimmy” and “Sonny.”

    • LOL Kate! Some of the pets offer “good examples” and others take great pleasure in stirring things up. Keeps us on our toes, eh?

      With the old guys, it’s all about accommodating their needs as they age. More lights (great idea!) and perhaps a ramp with good footing often helps the confidence for the pets with failing sight.

  4. Our two aren’t quite to the 14-year mark yet but they will be come spring. One of them has indeed “retired”, the other… er… I don’t think he knows he’s supposed to. LOL Anubis still tears through the house at 3am, makes a toy out of just about everything… and forces Simba to exercise. LOL

    Of course I’ve already told you all about the dog I had as a kid, who I still miss dearly and still sometimes go to call for when I’m visiting my parents’ place.

    People don’t seem to realize the value of adopting an older pet. But let me tell you, if you’ve got a busy lifestyle you’re gonna want a couch potato over a go-getter if you don’t have much time or energy to go romping with the puppy. I’ve known many older dogs who simply reveled in a quiet night on the couch. They understand that sometimes you just need to curl up and be loved. Even if you haven’t had that dog all your life, and just found him at the shelter… older dogs seem to be more “tuned in”. Fewer distractions than the pups. The downside, of course, is the older ones are often a bit more prone to separation anxiety from what I’ve seen, so that adjustment period’s going to take a little patience.

    Plus, a lot of shelters offer a lower adoption fee for older dogs. They may have fewer years left than a puppy, both those years will be worth it.

    Friend of mine just lost two of her old pets this year – her shih tzu and one of her rescued foxes, leaving her only with the young ‘uns in the house. For a while there she was getting driven a bit crazy, I think, without the oldsters to keep those two in check. That’s the other thing… sometimes the older pets will help tame down the younger ones a bit so you don’t go completely insane. Do a bit of the “mommying” for you.

    • Karyl, you’re right that shelters often offer “bonus” incentives for adopting adults and seniors. My heart breaks at the thought of the aging dogs and cats who lose their beloved owner when s/he must go into assisted leaving–or dies.

      I’ve had family and friends who said they never wanted another dog/cat because they didn’t want to out-live them. Well…there’s yet another great reason for adopting a “mature” pet.

      • Yeah, I remember when the high school show choir would go around and sing for the area nursing homes… when we went to mingle I ended up chatting with a woman who said she only expected to be in the hospital for one night, then they transferred her straight to the nursing home and they wouldn’t let her bring her cat. Said that was the biggest thing she missed, and she hated it because she had no idea who was taking care of her cat now. Always hate to hear those kinda of stories. : More of those places should let folks bring their pets along with them. Just doesn’t seem fair, to the person OR the pet.