One of the joys of working from home: my pre-work morning has been spent watching Harry, a little 10-year-old dog that I’m dog-sitting for a few days for a friend – he’s not even 20 pounds – playing with Lucinda, and it’s been absolutely hilarious. I love my still-a-puppy for adjusting her play for a smaller, slower dog, and I love Harry for being oh-so feisty. And I wonder yet again why more people don’t adopt older dogs.
Lucy is my first puppy – I got her at seven-months old. But she’s my fourth dog. My first dog, Buster, was probably two when I adopted him off the streets of a town in Massachusetts, my second dog, Wiley, was almost six and been shuffled around and neglected in three homes before me, and my third dog, Albi, was almost seven, rescued from the streets of a small town in Hungary. Adopting those older dogs was actually much easier in many respects than adopting a puppy: they were already house-trained, they were grateful for absolutely every milligram of love that came their way, and they had personalities that had allowed them to survive all those years before. They were each groovy, and happy to learn new tricks. I’ll never forget when my second dog, Wiley, had to go to another room with a vet without me, and he started to cry – big loud wails – because he didn’t want to leave me. And the vet said, “Wow, I haven’t seen a dog this bonded to an owner in a while.” And I thought, yeah, there’s that whole older-dogs-can’t-bond-with-new-families myth going down in flames.
Families with children that are concerned about introducing a new dog should really look into adopting an older dog. So many rescue groups know the personalities of the dogs in their care – do they like children? do they like other dogs? do they get along with cats? do they enjoy long walks or just need a few short ones? do you want a dog that’s quiet and sleeps a lot or that’s really active and needs play time every day? – and can match you with an older dog that would be perfect for your particular family and home. The big pet stores now have dogs from these rescue groups for adoption – they don’t use puppy mills anymore – and the volunteers there will be happy to answer your questions.
And with all that said… I’m really disappointed in the ASPCA TV advertisements. They never encourage you to adopt a pet from a shelter, they never encourage you to get your pet spayed or neutered – they only ask that you give them money. Just as volunteer engagement shouldn’t be only about getting work done (it should be about cause awareness-building, building trust in the community, etc.), TV advertisements for nonprofits shouldn’t be only about “give us money.”
Also see: Don’t just ask for money