Downeast Dog News

Older Dogs Deserve a Second Chance

By Susan Spisak | Oct 01, 2017
Photo by: Furry Kids Pet Photography

October is designated as Adopt-a-Dog Month® by the American Humane organization, and you’re on board--you’d like to give a homeless dog a second chance at a good life. Before you head to your local shelter or contact a rescue, please consider looking for an older dog like our pretty cover girl, Tulip, a one-time stray who was riddled with serious medical issues. This sweet black Lab mix has had her health restored, and she’s living the dream because she hit the adoption jackpot with mom, Cori Myers.

Senior dogs are often overlooked, and while it’s true that adopting an older dog can be rewarding, many potential adopters don’t always see it that way. They romanticize an easy and fun life with pups or younger dogs. Truth be told, those adorable puppies and youngsters need tons of work--training, guidance, monitoring, and plenty of exercise.

Case in point- my husband and I recently took in a rescued 75 lb., 8-month-old “puppy” in a foster-to-adopt situation. After countless miles walked, two torn-up dog beds, a chewed-on hutch, a shredded area rug, loud plastic toy noises throughout the night (realistic pig and chicken squeals), water bowls toppled daily (he liked to soak his paws), not to mention the real issue--our resident 15-year-old dog had the “deer in headlights” look whenever the pup frolicked nearby, we sadly said goodbye to the boisterous boy. He went to another animal-lover in a successful foster-to-adopt situation--she also happens to be a professional dog trainer.

Ok, so maybe you’re not thinking puppy, but you’re not ready to commit to an “old dog.” Depending on size and breed, what’s considered an older dog may really be between 5 and 10 years of age, well past that “wild and crazy” youngster stage, but probably not what you think of as senior--as in geriatric or unhealthy, and the good news is that with the advanced veterinary care, medicines and supplements available, as well as high quality food options, dogs, in general, are living longer.

Many senior and older dogs may still be quite healthy and spunky but don’t need vigorous exercise. You can enjoy many activities with them--regular walks, treks along the beach, nice games of catch, and shared travels. Older dogs bring a quiet and gentle companionship, unconditional love, are often low maintenance, and can blend into a home and family seamlessly. They’re usually housebroken and may be crate trained, too.

Mandy Fisher, President of Old Dogs New Digs rescue organization, says older dogs and seniors give back so much. They appreciate the fact that they’re out of a shelter and in a home again. That’s why her organization partners with those facilities and provides foster homes for older dogs in need. She believes older and medically challenged dogs are stressed in shelters, thus they don’t “show” well. Once they are in a loving foster home or are adopted, they bloom. She adds another reason to adopt an older dog, “It feels really good to help a senior dog.”

Tulip is a great example of how age is just a number and how it feels great for an adopter to take in a dog in need. She came in as a stray in very bad physical shape to Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick. They reached out to Old Dogs New Digs, and the non-profit found a foster home for this obese dog (caused by hypothyroidism) who had a hard time even walking.

Topsham Veterinary Wellness Center provided an exam and X-rays that revealed torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs) in her knees. Specialist Dr. Mark House recommended a weight-loss program and aqua-therapy so this beautiful Lab could slim down enough to be eligible for a bilateral tibial plateau leveling osteotomy, or TPLO surgery. Tulip lost the weight and was a champ at her aqua therapy, and last July, she had the surgery (a gofundme page was established to raise the money).

Cori was Tulip’s second foster home, and she couldn’t part with the “sassy” Lab. She jokes that she was “duped” into fostering the dog that she was told was 10. She says the Lab has shed years as her health turned around--her vet believes she’s about 7. That’s thanks to excellent vet intervention, medicines, attention, and lots of love.

Cori didn’t just rescue and help with the rehabilitation of Tulip. The gentle black Lab rescued her right back, showing up when Cori needed a real boost. “Tulip joined my life a few days after I was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome and could barely function, so I figure if she can get me through that, I can get her through knee surgery and whatever else comes her way because she deserves it.”

Tulip is a happy ending adoption story, for sure. She’s two months post-op and her personality continues to shine. She can be seen jumping off the dock into Lake Sebago, taking ocean swims, and fetching large rocks on the beach. She piles them up and barks at Cori to throw them in the water so she can retrieve (no tennis balls for this quirky gal). She accompanies Cori to work from time to time--she’s a social worker--and she says Tulip’s a “social butterfly.”

If a new pet is in your future, please consider rescuing an older or senior dog like Tulip. Perhaps Cori sums it up best about adopting an older dog and giving one a second chance. “The thing about Tulip is I will never know what her past is or what happened to her, but I can promise to spoil her and make sure she lives the best life possible…For me, I got a well-mannered, ready to go dog. For her, it gave her a shot to really enjoy her life.”