Monday, June 13, 2011

The Joy of a Mature Pet

Our cocker spaniel, Cody, turned 13 a few days ago. He has been part of our household for more than four years now. I recall seeing that sweet little guy, nearly 10 years old, behind the gate of a kennel at the Casper Humane Society, and my heart nearly broke. Who would "dispose of" an older gentleman, used to living in a home? When I learned more of his story, I decided he really didn't have much of a loving home, had only been a 'stud' for service, then thrown away when he got "too old".

Society seems to like disposing of things -- disposable diapers, tossing plastic into the garbage instead of recycling, putting older parents into nursing homes instead of embracing them as part of the family, divorce instead of working through problems... why should we expect to treat our pets any different? Thankfully, not everyone thinks "disposing of" something is the best option; people recycle, people volunteer, people help, people adopt. And, adopting and embracing an older pet, like welcoming and gleaning from older people, is truly the smart option.

Here are a few reasons older pets make great pets:

·Puppies and kittens require a great deal of attention and time, and for busy families, time is something of a commodity. Mature pets can be left alone for longer periods of time, and often enjoy having ‘down time’. Now, this doesn’t mean they should be locked up in a kennel all the time and it doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise – adult pets just require LESS time and energy than puppies or kittens.
·Young ones require training, such as housebreaking, and a great deal of patience. Older pets often come housebroken/litter box trained, and in many cases, adult dogs have some basic obedience training, such as knowing “sit”, “stay” and “come”.
·What you see is what you get when you adopt an adult – adopting a mature pet allows you to know more about its size and temperament, whereas adopting a puppy or kitten is sometimes a guessing game when it comes to the animal’s temperament and size.
·Older pets expend less energy – often, a simple walk around the neighborhood for an older dog is sufficient, and mature cats enjoy lounging in the sun more than chasing strings or feathers. So if you’re not terribly active, an older pet might suit your lifestyle.
If you are an active person, such as a hiker or runner, your best companion could be a 2- to 5-year-old dog who is just waiting for that energetic person to help HIM expend some energy! (plus, most likely, not in need of potty training!)
·Adopting an older pet is truly a selfless act. As an animal ages, its chances of adoption grow slimmer; by giving a mature pet a home, you’re showing great compassion and empathy – and gaining a wonderful furry friend in the process!

Some people think if an older dog or cat is in the shelter there must be something wrong with it – not so! Many adult and senior pets are relinquished because the owner can no longer care for them due to the person’s health or even death. Some of the most wonderful companion animals in need of new homes are awaiting another chance to shower a family or individual with devotion, just as they did with their previous owner.

Cody had no trouble bonding with us when he was 10 years old. In fact, I believe he is thankful we brought him home with us. Sage turns 12 in a few months. As the time passes and I know we will face the inevitable one day, I never cease to be amazed at the devoted, loving, loyal hearts of my pets, especially my older dogs. I am SO GLAD I didn't turn my back on those gentle, heart-tugging brown eyes of an elderly male cocker spaniel. My life would not have been as enriched.

Happy Birthday, Cody!

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