BLOG: If you're adopting, consider a senior dog

Allison M Cooper
York Dispatch
Angel over TJ

Adopting an older dog can be an amazing experience. It was for my family and me -and although we only had a few years with our yellow lab TJ, they were years that taught me about the depth of the connection that happens when you bond with a dog.

I was reminded of the gentleness senior dogs possess on Saturday morning when I read a Facebook post by Brandon Stanton. He’s the photographer famous for the “Humans of New York” photo series.

Brandon wrote that his dog Susie passed away on Friday. He talked about how someone asked him to take her when she was 12 years old. Although he was broke and sleeping on a friend’s couch, he agreed to take Susie.

“ . . . Everyone that I asked told me that it was ‘not the right time’ for a dog. But I was so charmed by Susie, and the whole encounter seemed so fated, that I offered to take her,” Brandon wrote.

Brandon went on to talk about the way Susie bonded with his fiancé, Erin. So much so, in fact, that Erin was inspired to start a nonprofit called Susie’s Senior Dogs, which looks to place senior dogs with loving families.

This reminded me of the way our senior dog brought stillness, presence and gentleness to every interaction we had with him. When he became ill with cancer, he stayed connected and loving and he suffered through his final months and accompanying treatment by becoming even closer to us than he had been before. And we never thought that was possible.

The act of  saying goodbye to him felt like a spiritual experience. We surrounded him with love as he passed away and it was a deeply peaceful moment.

TJ's last months were among the richest I have experienced in my 50 years. He taught me lessons about life and death that I really hadn’t expected to learn when we decided to bring him home to enjoy his senior years with our daughter, who is crazy about dogs. We called our house his retirement home.

I thought it would be a fun experience for all of us. I failed to realize how incredibly rich it would be.

I highly recommend opening your home to a senior dog, if you are thinking of adopting.

There are a number of reasons to adopt an older dog. According to The Senior Dogs Project, some of those reasons include:

1. They are housetrained

2. They often don’t chew like puppies do

3. They are mellow, focused and train easily

4. They know that “no” means “no”

5. They settle in easily because they know about being part of a pack

6. They give love because they are grateful to have a second chance in a loving home

7. They give you time and space because their needs aren’t as immediate as puppies’ needs

8. Allow you a good night’s sleep

9. They are immediate companions

10. What you see is what you get – they have developed a distinctive personality

Although we have a puppy now, I have warned my family that I have every intention of filling our home with dogs. Among them will be senior dogs, who are difficult to place but can change your life.

For more information, there are a number of resources on the internet regarding older dogs, including The Senior Dogs Project and the York County SPCA.