When you think about adopting a pet, do you think Puppy? Kitten? What about house-training, chewed shoes and scratched furniture?
OK, how about a young dog, about a year or two old? Well â€¦ do you like to exercise â€” a lot? How about training? Do you work? Will the pet be happy home alone while youâ€™re gone? What about an older pet? One that will be happy to see you but content to relax quietly at home while youâ€™re gone, walks nicely on leash and already knows basic commands but is willing to learn more. Yes, you can teach an old dog new tricks with a few tasty treats at hand.
Generally, cats and dogs are considered â€śseniorsâ€ť at 10 and 7 years respectively but can live many happy, healthy years after that.
In their first year, cats and dogs transition from kittens and puppies to young adults. In that year, cats age the equivalent of 15 human years. By the end of their second year, theyâ€™re 24. Thereafter, one year equals 4 human years. So â€¦ an 11-year-old cat is equal to a 60-year old person.
Comparing dog to human years depends on size and weight. Small dogs age slower than large dogs. In their first year, dogs 20 pounds or smaller age 15 human years while dogs greater than 90 pounds age 12 years. At 11 years, small dogs are equal to a 60 year-old person while 90-plus-pound dogs are equal to an 86 year-old person. Longevity also depends on breed type, whether the pet lives indoors or outside, roams freely, eats a nutritious diet, and gets regular veterinary care.
Longevity can be a double-edged sword if pets outlive their owner, or their owner loses his/her job or home and they end up in an animal shelter or rescue. Having had the good fortune of a long life, these seniors are suddenly placed in an unfamiliar and highly stressful environment where they may be passed over for a cute, cuddly kitten or puppy.
Fortunately, there are compassionate people who adopt senior pets from animal shelters and rescues. In fact, there are a growing number of rescues devoted to caring for and finding loving, forever homes for senior pets.
In her article, â€śSenior Dog Adoptions on the Rise: Why Itâ€™s a Good Thing,â€ť Natasha Feduik notes, â€śAn older dog may be just what we need to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy some slow walks around the block and therapeutic snuggles on the couch. These adoring canines have a way of showing us what life is about: Appreciation, giving second chances, and loving unconditionally and wholeheartedly.â€ť
So when you think of adopting a pet, check out the â€śseniors.â€ť Youâ€™ll be glad you did.
Pam Runquist and her husband BJ, have provided senior dogs with a loving, forever home for a good number of years.
Pam writes, â€śWe adopted our first set of black lab mixes (Keri and Ralph) when they were young and enjoyed them through all stages of their lives â€” puppies, adolescents, senior citizens â€” but when they both passed away we saw an email about two 10-year-old old black labs at the Placer SPCA and thought, why not?
â€śThat pair, Kona and Kahuna, made us realize how rewarding it can be to adopt and care for senior dogs. They had been surrendered to the shelter when their family lost their home and, despite the fact that their world had been turned upside-down, they were friendly, fun-loving dogs and quickly adapted to our home, including getting along with our felines.
â€śThereâ€™re a lot of benefits to adopting senior dogs. They are usually pretty mellow and donâ€™t need as much exercise as puppies. They often are trained (we frequently discover tricks theyâ€™ve been taught as we get to know them) and the shelters or rescue groups usually know their personalities and whether they will be a good fit for your home.
â€śWe turned to Muttville, a San Francisco-based rescue group that specializes in senior dogs, for Max and Blaze, 11-year-old brothers we adopted several years ago. Now we have Sasha and Scoobie, also both from Muttville. They didnâ€™t come as a pair (weâ€™ve had Sasha about three years and just got Scoobie at the young age of 13) but they are getting along just fine and we are enjoying their unique personalities.
â€śPeople often tell us that they donâ€™t know how we can adopt senior dogs and deal with their aging issues and their loss. True, that is hard, but the rewards of giving an old dog a new home are far greater. Weâ€™re lucky to have shared our home with all of them.â€ť
â€” Evelyn Dale of Davis is a volunteer and advocate for shelter animal welfare. Contact her at [emailÂ protected] This column appears monthly.