When Margie adopted Tucker, the white-and-black dog was 13 years old. Now, two years later, she cherishes every day with the handsome canine.
“He’s now 15 and 7 months (I count every month at this age),” Margie said, pointing out a photo of Tucker and his birthday cake with the “1” and “5” candles on top and dog biscuits around the edges.
Senior pets like Tucker offer more than graying muzzles and a penchant for porch-sitting. Cats and smaller-breed dogs are considered “senior” at age 7, larger dogs are usually designated as “senior” by age 5 or 6, according to data provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
But even pets older than this can provide years of companionship and love. Age is not an indicator of an animal’s capacity for love and affection.
Older pets also may have basic training, dogs may be house-trained and may be ideal for families with children who are seeking a low-key, less excitable pal. In addition, elderly humans can benefit from adopting older pets who may settle into household routines more easily than super active puppies. Some older adults prefer to adopt an older pet because they worry about “burdening” loved ones with a young pet should they themselves pass away.
Now there are a multitude of organizations dedicated to training (if needed), caring for and finding homes for senior dogs in particular. With names like “GreyMuzzle” and “Senior Dog Sanctuary,” these groups rescue older animals from regional shelters—where older pets face a greater likelihood of euthanasia than younger animals—or take in pets who need a new home.
Many senior pets enjoy what could be called an “active adult” lifestyle—taking walks, chasing squirrels—while some may slow down, hampered by common ailments such as arthritis, diabetes, kidney or thyroid disease.
With proper veterinary care, some of these conditions can become chronic, treatable elements of a pet’s life. In fact, many veterinary practices offer specific programs for senior pets to help keep them in tip-top shape.
A Washington State couple, for example, Judith and Lee Piper, run the non-profit Old Dog Haven from their 5-acre property and focus on dogs ages 8 and older. The Pipers ensure that the dogs’ medical expenses will be covered and if a dog is too frail or not eligible for adoption, will permanently place the animal with one of the group’s 200 foster families.
“And these dogs are just great at this age. They’re so easy. It’s fun to take them in! They are so happy to be with you, and they ask for so little,” Judith Piper told USA Today last year.
If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a senior dog or cat, check out these groups’ websites: