The Unplanned Dog

2010 June 7_Roxie sitting prettyWhen we started looking for a new dog, we had no intention of adopting a senior. Only 10 months before, but feeling way more recent, we’d experienced the tail end of years of watching our senior dog, Roxie, decline, until we ultimately had to make that tough decision all pet owners dread.

So when we were ready to bring another dog into our house, we bypassed all the listings for older dogs and set the maximum age of our next dog at two years—old enough to be housebroken and beyond the destructive puppy stage yet young enough to spend many, many years with us. We searched Petfinder.com, finding many possibilities but settling on a year-old Basenji mix named Amy who was available through The Animal Guardian Society. We wanted to meet her right away, so I called the TAGS phone number to see if it could be arranged. Fortunately for us, Amy was being shown at PetSmart that day. We had less than an hour, though, before TAGS would be packing up.

We left the house right away and raced from north Ajax to south Whitby to meet our next baby. Amy was a beautiful girl, to be sure, but once we were there, it was the sweet-looking, shivering beagle in the next crate who tugged at our heartstrings.

Frightened Cora in the pound in Kentucky

Frightened Cora in the pound in Kentucky

“How old is she?” we asked the volunteer.

“Judging by her teeth, the vet estimated her to be five,” she said.

My husband and I looked at each other. Five. Possibly middle-aged already. Too old.

But after looking into her slightly cloudy eyes that she averted from us nervously, I just had to ask more about her. Her rescuer, we learned, had named her Cora. She was a death-row rescue from Kentucky, had been in the program for only two weeks and was a very timid dog who would need some time to adjust to new people. My heart ached for her.

But five!

Cora loves her walks and especially loves being by (or preferably in) the lake!

Cora loves her walks and especially loves being by (or preferably in) the lake!

It was hard leaving Cora that day even though we struggled to get her to interact with us—she was just so timid. But once we were in the car and on our way home, I asked my husband, “What do you think?” feeling certain he’d echo my fears of (1) her being too old and (2) her questionable ability to bond with us. But I so hoped he’d see, as I did, that we could do right by her—and that age really is irrelevant after all.

“I think she’s a lot older than five,” he said tentatively. Yes, she did look older than five.

“And so you think we shouldn’t consider her?” I tried to hide my disappointment.

He hesitated. “I think we could give her a great home,” he said. He added that he was worried about my concerns about her age but that he thought we should apply to adopt her. She’d gotten to him, too! I was thrilled!

Cora loves a Kong!

Cora loves a Kong!

We rushed home, filled out the application, followed up almost immediately with a phone call and had a home visit just two days after our first meeting. A week to the day after our seeing Cora at PetSmart, we picked her up (and her new stepbrother, Dusty, who TAGS recommended to be a good companion for her) for her extended visit, and she’s been with us ever since!

Once our vet met Cora, he confirmed our suspicions about her age. He felt that although her teeth did indeed suggest five, her body condition, cloudy eyes, energy level, and facial whiteness hinted at her being closer to ten. Even this soon after her adoption, we shrugged it off. The day we met her, we had learned a great lesson: Age really doesn’t matter when it comes to finding the dog of your heart. And in Cora, we certainly found that.

Some of the advantages we’ve since discovered of adopting an older dog are these:

Cora going through the agility tunnel!

Cora going through the agility tunnel!

  • Their energy comes in spurts, rather than being constant.
  • They have less interest in chewing slippers, remote controls, blankets, etc.
  • Often, their greatest joy is just spending couch time with you.
  • They often already have some training behind them, and even if they don’t, it’s true that you can teach an old dog new tricks. (We take Cora to agility lessons!)
  • It’s incredibly rewarding to give a senior (i.e., “less adoptable”) dog a loving home.

So if you’re looking for your next pet, don’t discount the older ones. They have so much love to give, and it just may be a senior dog who can wheedle his or her way into your heart, if just given a chance.

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