I received an email the other day from a woman wanting some advice on getting a dog for her dad who had recently moved into a senior living situation, and it got me thinking.
When someone comes to me asking for advice on adding a furry friend to their family, there’s not one perfect recommendation. I’d love to be able to say that going to your local shelter is always the appropriate answer because as we all know, there are more than enough dogs that need homes. The truth is that, in any case, the needs, desires and limitations of the human all have to be considered. In this case, I advised that the puppy his daughter was looking at might not really be the best choice.
Don’t get me wrong, puppies are cute, lovable and fun… well, for the first two weeks until they wake up and begin to explore the world with their, as a colleague of mine calls it, “sharp end”. And don’t get me started on potty training! Sorry for sounding like a curmudgeon.
Yes, puppies are lovely. I’ve raised puppies myself and taken in clients’ puppies back when I was starting out as a trainer. The appeal is clear and there are situations where this is a perfectly good route to adding a furry member to the family.
It just seems to me that a man who is looking for some companionship in his senior years really doesn’t need to weather the ups and downs of puppyhood.
My recommendation was to rescue a dog who’s entered his or her senior years too, and primarily is looking for a soft bed to rest in, a hand to pet them, a warm body to cozy up to on the couch (assuming they like the same shows) and a good stroll once a day. Rescuing a dog that was relinquished due to the economy or a passing of the owner would be a perfect choice for this man.
In fact, there’s an organization that I am a huge fan of called the Grey Muzzle Organization. These are senior dogs, some with health issues, but not all, in need of homes for the later portion of their lives. Anyone who has a dog over five knows what I mean when I say, “this is when they really get good!”
There are other good options for getting an older dog:
1. Network with people in dog professions who are always getting emails about dogs needing homes – sometimes the timing is just right!
2. Breed rescue
3. A rescue without a facility that only uses foster homes
4. A shelter
A family of small children versus a family of two adults who have been fostering dogs for a decade would dictate different dogs. I know that people don’t like to hear this, but sometimes a breeder and a puppy are the right way to go as long as the breeder is well-researched and vetted. Sometimes a rescue from the shelter is the way to go. Sometimes it’s something in between.