“Azella”: My rescued Husky/German Shepherd mix. (*Azella passed in peace and dignity on July 7, 2016. Rest in paradise, Baby Girl. We had a good run together. #TheresOnlyOneAzella)
Photograph by Robert Stewart Photography | All Rights Reserved.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a puppy, but there’s something special about deserving a senior dog.
I remember the first time I held my puppy. I admit, when the shelter asked me what my intentions were for the next 14+ years, I was oblivious to that “impossible” timeline. Cuddling this warm and wiggly pup in my arms, I felt like this joyous moment would go on forever. I was happy and proud. I never wanted this moment to end. But, eventually the puppy phase did. When my young dog grew into his big paws, I realized that it was up to me to earn his trust beyond just the early years.
I have fond memories of nurturing puppies, but it is the aging process—including surgery post op, administering pain meds, and fumbling with diapers—that I find most enduring. The raw vulnerability and sweetness that accompanies this critical time together is the greatest part of caring for a senior dog.
“There is something very profound about helping an old dog complete the circle of life surrounded by love and in the arms of the person who loved them at the end. It is the last gift we can give them.” —The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs
Having cared for many dogs, there’s always that one pal that leaves you with a gaping hole in your heart—even before you have to say good-bye. Some dogs just seem to leave a larger impact. It might be the circumstance in your life when that particular dog entered your world. It might be because of their relentless devotion to you, or the precious era you spend together. It may even be because they saved your life. Regardless, each senior dog symbolizes a significant chapter in life.
Nicodemus was my hero: I lost my first dog of my very own. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. Years later, I still accidentally call out his name. I watched over my diabetic—once rambunctious—old buddy, who became blind due to stress-induced surgery. I slept on the floor alongside him, and injected insulin morning and night. I knew when Nicodemus ate too much, or too little. I knew when he had to exercise and when enough was enough. When I administered his pills, he automatically opened his mouth like a tiny duckling opening his beak for his mother at feeding time.
During his superior years, Nicodemus was gentle and tender. He couldn’t see, and yet he saw everything. Our allegiance was intense; our bond, inseparable. He trusted me with a kind of earned faith that demands respect. This faith was evident up until the end of his life. Nicodemus gave me permission to feed him for the last time. I held him close to my heart and read him a story.
He blinked. Then, I quietly let him go.
With tangled emotions, I know that I’ll soon lose *my Husky. As I prepare, I continue to earn her trust and gain her respect along the way. I realize more tears are unavoidable and I fight away my fears. I’m somewhere between acceptance and letting go.
Theories why Senior dogs Aren’t Adopted:
1. People prefer a puppy.
They either want the most adorable or they look for a way to trade in for a younger model. Wiggling bodies, puppy breath, and endless energy sometimes outshine frail and fragile. Tip: Truly learn what dog aligns with your specific family and life circumstance.
2. People don’t want to face reality.
With older animals comes additional responsibility (and bravery). We are helpless to the inevitable. Some cannot take on the role of caring for a special needs or older animal. Often, people can’t handle the pain of losing a pet either. Tip: Prepare, but don’t panic. Enjoy life’s journey, not the end. Don’t miss your opportunity to engage and interact with your dog. Cherishing good times will help you through the tough times. (See Mollycoddle (link) by C.Bournias)
“My goal is to support the adoption of older dogs and show those people who are on the fence, that they can make a difference.” —Senior Pooch, Adventures With Our Elder Canine Companions
3. People have financial difficulty.
Extenuating circumstances or economic conditions cause owners to let go sooner because of the extra financial burden. Caring for an aging animal is not easy on the wallet. However, with early, careful preparation, it is possible. Tip: Invest in pet insurance. A cost effective policy is worth it in the long run. With a suitable program, insurance can often defer costs; helping to plan ahead.
“We don't believe in reducing fees for older dogs. It sends the message that they are not as valuable as younger dogs, and nothing could be father from the truth. And old dogs will need regular medical care after they are adopted as well.” —The Sanctuary for Senior Dogs
November 2016 is “National Senior Pet Month.” Thank you for considering a senior dog for adoption when searching for your next forever friend.
Christina Bournias resides in Michigan with her 3-pack; three new beautiful adopted miracles. As her “Angelwriter”, Nicodemus (1997-2010) is the wisdom behind the stories she shares. Christina champions the magnitude of building the bond between a dog and their person(s) by means of respectful communication and enduring admiration.
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2016 © !woof Nicodemus™
September, 2016: American Pet Magazine | V5 Issue3, Page 4-5