Why I Have Decided to Only Adopt Senior Dogs
I've become the accidental owner of a dog retirement refuge, and I wouldn't change a thing.
I never set out to turn our home into a posh retirement resort for drooling senior basset hounds, but alas, here we are. Old, blind, arthritic, diseased — there is no dog ailment or physical challenge that can scare me off. We're an all-seniors, all-the-time household. But it wasn't always this way.
My husband, Greg, and I adopted our first basset, Oliver, when he was only one-and-a-half years old. We specifically told the rescue group that we wanted a young dog so that we could have as many years with him as possible. And we did. Oliver was with us through the most important moments of our lives together.
He was neurotic, needy and super sweet until he decided he was done with you and just wanted to be left alone. Much like his parents, he could be pretty moody. Even so, we quickly realized that we had fallen in love with him in a way we had never imagined possible.
At around 11 years old, we realized that Oliver was completely deaf. He used to be waiting at the door for us whenever we returned, and all of the sudden he couldn't seem to hear us coming. Then at around 12 years old, he started to show signs of dementia. Dogs actually have many of the same symptoms that humans do with this horrible disease. He would often get confused about where he was in our apartment, staring off at a blank wall with a scared look in his eyes. He also started wandering off much more to be alone. With time, his symptoms got worse and worse. When he started "sundowning" (staying up all night and sleeping during the day) and having more bad days than good, we knew it was time to say goodbye. Not to be overly dramatic, but for anyone out there who's had the experience of saying goodbye to a pet who's been in their family for many years, the only way to describe it is: deeply devastating and indescribably gut-wrenching.
After going through something so painful, the very last thing on my mind was adopting a senior pet and setting myself up for going through this all over again. Then I saw Dudley.
I had been stalking the Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California's site for some time by that point, and when I laid my eyes on sweet little Duds, I immediately fell in love. After clicking on his profile, that's when I saw that he was 12 years old. I was heartbroken. How on earth could we adopt a 12 year old? But for some reason, I couldn't get him out of my head.
I searched "adopting senior dogs" to see if I could get some perspective. I'm not even sure what I was hoping to find, but I wasn't ready to abandon the idea of adopting Dudley. I was deep in my head over the idea of whether or not I could handle this emotionally. What if we just ended up having him for a few months? We would be devastated all over again. But then I read something that completely changed the game for me.
A woman was talking about coming to her decision to adopt seniors after losing a pet she had loved for many years. After agonizing over the decision, she thought "if someone had told me I could have my beloved dog who had just passed away, but only for six months, would I still have said yes to adopting him knowing what I know now?" For her, the answer was yes. And for me it was, too. I would have said yes even if I knew we would only have Oliver for two weeks. That's how madly in love with him I was. This one thought was what helped me realize that we could do this after all. I knew it would be hard, but I reminded myself how hard it is for these amazing senior pups who, at a time when they should just be pampered and loved, were stuck alone in a shelter. I decided that I would much rather it be hard for me than hard for them.
We had our amazing, pudgy little Dudley for a year and a half, and we loved every single day we had with him. He helped us come to realize that we wanted to only adopt seniors from here on in.
Taking a chance and adopting him was one of the most amazing and important things I feel like I've ever done. Now we have the newest member of our family: Gus. He's our third basset hound who clocks in at 10 years old (which feels like a puppy after 12-year-old Dudley and 14-year-old Oliver).
One of the most amazing things about seniors is that you don't have to teach them A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G. They are, by and large, completely well-versed in all the behavioral rules we spend eons teaching our dogs when they're little. Senior dogs are mostly interested in one thing and one thing only: getting and giving endless amounts of love.
If you've ever given any thought to bringing an old pup into your family, I can't recommend it enough. It really has changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. For some more information, check out Susie's Senior Dogs or Frosted Faces. Both are amazing organizations who only focus on rescuing and adopting out senior pooches. While I certainly love to look at puppies on the internet, I've decided that I don't ever want one in my home. I only have eyes for the really old guys and gals these days.