Senior Dogs as Social Mediums

Some of us are more comfortable typing our lives away in front of a computer screen while the world goes on without us outside. Some of us are even satisfied that "social media" is a substitute for getting out there and meeting some real people in the good old outdoors.

Getting out forces you to live life in real time instead of in fits or blurbs of 140 characters at a time like folks do on Twitter.

Walking with your senior dog forces you to slow down and appreciate everything that nature has to offer. Smell the flowers. Sit down and take a break on a park bench or in a quiet place in the shade. The sounds and sights are amazing if you take a moment to capture them.

You also get to meet all sorts of people and their animals. If we just consider the wild animals population (crows, rabbits, and field mice where we live), me and my old dog get plenty of action just watching (and occasionally talking with) our local fauna. For the most part this means watching from a distance, but each of us is respectful of the other and acknowledges our presence.

Of the four legged variety, we've met hundreds of dogs over the last two years. I guess that it's been somewhere over 1,000 in all of the places that we've visited just within a two mile radius. Usually it's the more mature dogs that have the confidence and smarts to greet one of their own in a mutually pleasing way (a quick sniff and some wags). Your mileage may vary, but for me and my pup, we get along with other happy and confident dogs that have been altered. Occasionally we'll come across a puppy that wants to play, which works just as well as long as they're not getting too rowdy and want to wrestle. Rusty doesn't mind a little of that, but is a competitive soul and will get up and try to "win" which can be scary for many other dogs when they have an 80 lb. monster forcing them down.

It's usually the two legged variety that we get to interact most. A large personal trainer who will set his class to task so he can take a break to come and pet Rusty, the occasional kids playing in the park that want to say hi or just get a little closer to see a dog if they don't have one of their own, the jogger who stopped to give Rusty a hug because he misses an old dog like him who is no longer with us, a young lady who wanted to talk about what's going on in the neighborhood and had to juggle her coffee after Rusty leaned in for a quick rub are just some of the folks we meet.

We've also met plenty of folks who recognize and old soul and want to introduce their own senior dog or talk about one that's meant a lot to them. My favorite of all time remains some of my neighbors who came over to introduce their new older shelter dog who they got after seeing me with the Mighty Boo Boo years ago walking in the park.

I'm grateful for all I've learned from all of them. I'd encourage you to get out there and make some memories with your neighbors in real time.

Judging the Best Senior Shelter Dog for You

Senior Chi-Terrier Mix
January is coming to a close. You've walked by so many adoption events in front of pet stores that your resolve is beginning to falter. It's time to give in and get that older dog you've read about here and reap some of the benefits they bring with them.

Whether you are interested in a dog from a rescue or shelter, make sure that you are asking all the right questions:

Does this dog get along with people? Does it like kids?

You'll want to know if your dog has any hang ups around any particular type of people. Maybe they got along especially well with men or women. Maybe they're skittish around children. Even if you don't have any, you'll want to know before you get out there and start to walk them in public.

How does the dog react to other animals?   

Many shelters and rescue will test for animal aggressive behavior. If you have another animal, you're going to want to introduce them before making a long term commitment. Ask your rescue volunteer or shelter staff for the best way to do this. Ask them if they've noticed any food guarding behaviors with your pooch to be. This usually isn't a deal breaker, but if you've never had more than one animal at the same time, learning how to feed them together is something important to research.

What is the dog's behavior like when it is not restricted to its pen or crate? 

Quite often a dog will retreat into itself if locked up for any length of time to cope with the isolation. They're pack animals and the thought of not being social is a scary proposition, however when they're allowed to go out, they are born again.

Does the dog they have any illnesses or physical ailments that you need to be aware?

It's always best to understand this at the beginning of your relationship with your senior dog. Some illnesses are very treatable in an inexpensive way. Others require more time, attention, and yes: funds to address effectively. My advice: Don't over commit.
Next, get out there and meet you prospective new room mate. Call up your rescue or shelter to make an appointment to come by and meet the dog, or even a few dogs that might be a fit. Let them know who will be responsible for the dog should you decide to adopt and if you have other animals that you have. Before adopting, you're going to want to make sure that you're introducing them in a controlled manner first

Listen to the rescue team when meeting your new older pup. They'll likely have some insight to help you make the best first impression possible. Most important: be yourself. Be the person you want your new dog to love and obey.

Photo Credit: rikkis_refuge
Licensed under Creative Commons

Resolve to Make a Difference in One Dog's Life This Year

A senior pug out and about at a local contest
Right about now many of us are figuring out ways to avoid going to the gym, eat that extra piece of cake, and work even more television into our already busy schedules.

Now is the time to make a New Year's Resolution to improve the life of one homeless senior dog

It's inevitable, don't try to fight it.

Whew, that was close.

Now, with all that extra spare time on your hands I want you to resolve to make a difference in the life of just one senior dog this year. There are many low cost/low calorie days to take this on which aren't going to cause you one quarter of the conflict that figuring out how you're going to explain to your significant other that you now need to dismantle the clothes rack/exercise machine that you assembled a week ago:

Post Holiday Rescue Opportunities

Some people get the holiday blues due to all of the stress that comes from the preparations, work, and dealing with relatives that they only see once a year. Right about now all of the presents and decorations have been put away and folks are throwing out the last of the fruit cake so they can return to their regularly scheduled lives. For most, this week is a return to normalcy.

For rescue professionals, this week is a call to action.

Despite best efforts to get folks to people to recognize that they should provide the same  loyalty to their old dogs as they have shown to them, there are more older dogs being dumped in shelters than ever before. Some of the excuses, include:

  • We just got a new puppy and they don't get along.
  • He sleeps a lot.
  • She is having more accidents on the rug.
  • Hes' old.

Let's explore each of these:

  • The puppy excuse - Anyone who doesn't put in the effort to get this to work has no business owning one door, never mind two. 
  • More sleep than usual - Be grateful that you don't need to expend as much effort exercising your dog. Stress and more exercise added over a short period of time will contribute to your dog playing catch up with the Zzzzs.
  • Accidents - As dogs get older, weakened muscle mass contributes to loss of bladder control.  Check with your vet. Taking them out more often or training them to use pee pads is the way to go, not sending them to death row.
  • He's old. - Not an excuse. Your dog may be old, but you're the one who has forgotten a lifetime of love that they've given you.
If you're in the market for a dog now that the holidays have finished or are a with a rescue, I'd like to ask you not go with the easy choice and adopt (or heaven forbid, buy) a younger dog. There are plenty of folks who will will go with that safe choice. This year choose to be unpredictable and get that senior dog who doesn't understand why their family dumped them.

Be a maverick. Take a chance. Save a life.

Happy Tails of Old Friends

Old Friends: Great Dogs on the Good Life is a masterfully designed book sharing the longevity secrets of senior dogs through photographs.

Author/photographer, Mark J. Asher, captured 45 amazing images of the subjects in the senior stage of their lives. The pictures alone tell stories of road-tested wisdom through their thoughtful glances.

Even if you never owned an older dog, I can guarantee that there are 45 different ways to bring a smile to your face in this book.

Each picture is accompanied by one or more longevity secrets. Some show their mischievous sides, like Chica who credits "helping houseguests finish their hors d'oeuvers", loyalty - as is told by a patient Duelley as he waits for one of his famous "long truck drives", and Jackie whose "nap often, snore loudly, and twitch with wild abandon" speaks of how he enjoys his time these days while never forgetting the adventures that led him here.