"Adopt A Senior Pet" month isn't until November, but when a recent Facebook "On This Day" post took me back to the day we adopted our 13-year-old Sheltie, "Spike" (shout out to NOVA Sheltie Rescue!!!)...
...I decided to share this article that I wrote for the rescue group's newsletter. Hope it convinces ya to give an older pet of any breed a chance!
"The Joy Of Seniors"
I think I have somewhat of a reputation with the NVSR folks…”a softie for the seniors”. My first experience with an older Sheltie was Buddy, a Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue fella who was taken in as a stray – so we never knew exactly how old he was, but my vet guessed that he was around 9. Sadly, I only shared a few short years with Buddy before kidney failure sent him to the Bridge. But in those years, I developed an intense love for Senior dogs (more on why they’re so amazing below). After Buddy, I fostered several Shelties who were in their “Golden Years”. I figured each time that the dog would be with me for awhile, as most people tend to overlook the older dogs – they don’t want to deal with 1: the potential health issues, and 2: the fact that their time with the dog may be brief. Those two issues have never been a concern of mine. These Seniors deserve the same kind of happy, loving homes as their younger counterparts.
When NVSR dog Spike was returned to NVSR in 2014 - at the age of 13 and a ½ - because his owner was “moving and couldn’t take him along”, I said to myself, “couldn’t” – or “wouldn’t”. Through no fault of his own, a sweet, loving Sheltie was being abandoned, possibly because of his age. I took one look at Spike and felt an instant connection. I knew he was destined to be ours. So we gladly added him to our family. From the beginning, Spike’s difficulty getting around was obvious. His hips weren’t strong, and his feet were splayed – I assume from years of not having his nails cut. He basically hobbled from room to room. Steps weren’t an option – nor was jumping up on the couch (something we allow at our house). But it didn’t matter to Spike or to us…we were just happy to know that he would be with us for the rest of his days.
Despite his mobility issues…there were highlights…like the one time we actually saw him run a bit, while trying to play in our yard with the other dogs - he wanted to be part of the action! And the day we put him in the pool with us…he swam like he was in the Olympics – what a fast little guy in water, if not on land! Spike had spirit…but that spirit couldn’t stop the hands of time. Because as the days and weeks wore on, he began to have more serious health issues with his kidneys, pancreas and gall bladder, and at one point lost all mobility. We were able to restore that function, and then received a promising ultrasound result. So naturally, we began to have hope that he would remain with us longer. Then, a few weeks later came the morning that we woke up…but he did not. He had passed during the night. My vet suspected a heart attack or stroke and assured me that Spike didn’t suffer. But I did…because I wasn’t able to say goodbye, to hold and kiss him, and whisper words of love and gratitude into his ear as he was about to begin his journey to the Bridge.
We lost Spike on July 17, 2015…exactly one year to the day we adopted him. It’s as if he knew the significance of that day and fought to give us one full year with him. And even though it was only a year, I wouldn’t trade a single day with Spike. He would often gaze at me so intently, as if he was trying to say with his eyes, “Thank you for taking a chance on me”. There is something so special about loving a Senior Sheltie. They still have so much to offer – and ask for so little in return. With a Senior, what you see is what you get: a mature animal who’s house trained and has long since mastered the basic commands (but contrary to popular belief, you CAN teach old dogs new tricks. They are just as bright as younger ones, with a greater attention span, making them that much easier to train.). Seniors demand less of your attention than younger dogs, so they are content with their own company for longer periods. Because of their lower energy level, Senior dogs are easier to care for and make wonderful companions for the elderly. They also make friendly and gentle playmates for children. The benefits are many, for you and the Senior dog.
Every Senior deserves a “best friend until the end”. Won’t you be that friend for an older dog who just wants to be loved? Open your heart and home to a Senior dog…he or she will show you such devotion…and you can take pride in the fact that you’ve made a Senior’s final months or years the best of that Sheltie’s life.
These are some of my cherished pictures of Spike...the first one was taken in the car on our way to Ocean City - he looked so happy and content!
This next photo was taken when he was sick, fighting those issues I mentioned above...
And this one is my favorite...the day we made him part of our family...didn't he look just so grateful and relieved? This little guy left the BIGGEST pawprints on my heart.