“Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”
– Sydney Jeanne Seward
Here at Suncoast Humane Society, we often speak about the merits of adopting a senior pet, and while we can speak about it until we are blue in the face, it doesn’t mean anything until you do it yourself. One of our own staff, Sara, shares her personal experience adopting a senior pet:
“I’d wanted a dog of my own for years, and adopted a fish and two cats along the way trying to fill the void that only a dog could do for me. Before working at Suncoast Humane Society, I learned about the plight of “pit bull” type dogs in animal shelters and vowed to one day adopt one of my own. What I didn’t learn until I started working at Suncoast Humane Society was the struggle that senior pets faced in animal shelters. Because of their age, they are often overlooked for their younger counterparts (I mean, it’s really hard to resist the cuteness of a puppy or kitten), and with good reason: they simply don’t have as much time left in this life as their younger competition. The softhearted and generous folks who choose to adopt a pet sometimes know that they will not be able to handle the shorter lifespan that a senior pet will have, and instead opt for a young adult or baby pet that they will have for longer.
“That leaves the older cats and dogs waiting longer in their kennels and cages for homes. I saw Mikey, a 7 year old American Pit Bull Terrier/Boxer mix, wait more than 6 months at our animal care center. He was perfectly behaved, a little anxious for being in a shelter environment but remarkably well-adjusted. I watched him wait and get overlooked time and time again, never seeing him get chosen to be seen in our adoption “meet ‘n greet” areas. Because our “pit bull” type dogs sometimes wait longer but still find homes, I knew that he must have been getting passed over because of his age.
“I had been waiting to adopt a dog also because I knew that if I wanted a “pit bull” type dog, I would have a hard time finding a rental that would accept the breed. So while I was in the process of purchasing my first home, I made sure the homeowner’s insurance I selected did not discriminate against certain dog breeds. I had my eye on Mikey because I knew he would be a good fit with my other pets. Of course, I wanted him to find a home whether it was with me or not, so I hoped he would get adopted before I moved into my home, but selfishly wished that he could go home with me.
“Thankfully it all worked out and I was able to adopt Mikey on March 17, 2015. It was the best St. Patrick’s Day I’ve ever had, and the holiday date will make it easy for me to remember and celebrate his ‘birthday,’ the day he joined my family! After taking some advice from Jorge, the animal behaviorist on staff here at Suncoast Humane Society, on introducing Mikey to my resident cats, I was soon able to trust Mikey with free reign of my home while I am away. He knows the ropes of being in a home so well, and I didn’t have to do anything to housebreak him (bonus!). We have our little routine now, with daily walks and snuggles, and his KONG toy is his favorite thing in the world to play with, and he can “fetch” like a champ.
“What surprised me the most about adopting a senior pet was how easily Mikey adjusted to my home and schedule. He knew just how to act in the home, and quickly came around to my cats, though he had never lived with any before. I’m a busy young professional, working at Suncoast Humane Society full time, and going to graduate school at the same time, so I needed a dog that required minimal training, if any. He’s been the perfect companion now, and enjoys snuggling with me every night. I call him “my old man” and “Old Man Mikey” affectionately.
“I know that my time with Mikey is limited, especially for larger breed dogs like him, but that’s what makes my time with him so precious. He lives each day with the zest of a much younger dog, and it’s difficult for me to wear him out on our runs. He loved and bonded with me so quickly, and when he rests his head in my lap, I feel completely loved. His is an old love, and it’s strong. I know that he will stick around as long as he can, and with all the love he gives, that will be more than enough for me.”
Adopting a senior pet is not for everyone, BUT it can be a good fit for you and your lifestyle. If you think a senior cat or dog is the companion you’re searching for, we offer reduced adoption fees on cats and dogs aged 7 and older, and some of those senior pets have been at our animal care center for more than 6 months, which makes their adoption fees even lower. See this gallery of currently adoptable senior cats and dogs, and visit our website for the most current list of adoptable cats and adoptable dogs: