Older dogs need help, too

older dog rescue

Her soft, black eyes darted about our kitchen as she surveyed her new home three years ago. Our family would be Jesi’s final family. In her puppy years, she was abused, starved and neglected. She had been saved by her second family who treated her broken ribs and bones and a broken front paw. She had been very scared.

But with the love of this family, Jesi learned to play flashlight tag and play with squeaky toys. She assigned herself the job of yard patrol. She ate like a lady having tea at Tiffany’s. And she began each day with sheer joy! [Read Jesi’s full story here]

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Bad Behavior is not the Only Reason Dogs are Relinquished

But the owner became pregnant and could no longer take her allergy medication. So she had to place Jesi up for adoption. We adopted Jesi, a petite, five-year-old German Shepherd, from the German Shepherd dog Rescue of Northern Illinois.

She grew with us, too, and melded into our family as though she had always been there. She became a wonderful companion. Sadly, we lost her a year later to a fast-growing brain tumor. But we would do it all over again to give her, and us, a great year of life together.

Many people wonder that if a rescue dog were so great, then why wouldn’t an owner keep it. No doubt, there are dogs that are placed for adoption because they have bad habits.  But it’s not uncommon for people to buy well-bred, expensive dogs on impulse. Then, when the dog outlives its novelty, put them up for adoption.

Owners may pass away or may not have enough time to care for a dog. They may need to move to a place where dogs are not allowed. Or they may have a prospective spouse who doesn’t like dogs.

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

The old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” isn’t always accurate either. Usually, older dogs have been somewhat socialized.  They generally require less house training and have less vim and vigor than puppies. It’s easy to assess their behavior, temperament, and size ahead of time because they’re full grown. Training an older dog is like training any other living creature with a personality. Each according to his or her disposition and motivation level. Check out our A-Z list of safe dog games you can play with your dog!

Warm Your Heart: Save an Older Dog

Potential dog owners often want a puppy because they’re cute, expected to live long, and they can train it from the beginning. Or they want a 2-year- old dog to avoid the hassles of a puppy and potentially still have the dog for a long time. They also don’t want the heartbreaking experience of losing an older dog too soon.

But what about the heartwarming experience of saving a dog so it can lead a full life? Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible for most rescues to place a dog that is over 5 years old quickly, if at all.

Perhaps the resistance to adopting an older dog is reflective of the attitudes toward old age, in general. But just as a puppy has its whole life ahead of it, so does an older dog. There are no guarantees in life, especially how long any creature lives. Ultimately the quality of time together is more important than the quantity.

Thank you, Jesi, for giving us a wonderful year.

Do you have an older dog you need to re-home? Are you looking for an older dog to adopt? If so, where would you recommend for an adoption?

This story ran in the monthly Common Sense column in the OP-ED section of The Herald News of Joliet, IL.  (3/28/06)

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