I Don’t Rescue, But if I Did . . .

Have you ever wished you were a stronger person so you could be a better person?

Pet rescue people are awesome

As you may have figured out from my obsession with my Cardigan Welsh Corgi, I’m not exactly a rescue person.  I think (most) rescue people are awesome and I applaud them for their labors of love, but that’s not my path.  Some days though, I wish a very specific kind of rescue were.

While I think that just about every dog in a shelter is a sad situation, there’s one group that is particularly heartbreaking for me–the elderly (Dogs who are really up there–they have maybe a couple years left, if that).

Some of these older dogs have possibly been strays their whole lives, but a lot of them have been abandoned.  Sometimes people don’t want to deal with an older dog’s health issues (or possibly can’t for financial reasons); sometimes people can’t bear the thought of having to put the aged family pet down, so they spare themselves the pain and let the shelter do it for them; sometimes people are just tired of having an old dog instead of a younger, bouncier, more fun version.

Nothing is sadder than an elderly dog that has been abandoned

I believe if you get a dog, you are responsible for that dog for LIFE.  (Now I made a mistake in getting my first dog, but I also made sure he went to a good home–a better home for him–in remedying that mistake.)  Dogs that give their love and loyalty and companionship their entire lives deserve the same.  They take care of us and therefore deserve to be taken care of.  And as far as Loki is concerned, the last thing she’s ever going to know before slipping off peacefully to her eternal rest (hopefully a LONG time from now) is that her mother is with her, holding her, and loving her to the very end (and beyond).

And I wish so much I could do this for other dogs.  I wish I had the strength and the emotional fortitude to take an old dog out of the shelter and give him or her the best final years EVER.  That I could offer him a soft bed for his old bones or a spot on the couch next to me to snooze the day away.  I wish I could feed him lots of yummy things and habitually scratch his ears with one hand while reading or watching TV.  (While working, I’d have him under my desk so I could pet him with my foot.)  I’d take him on leisurely strolls for whatever distance worked best for him.  I’d take care of his medications and do whatever I could to make him comfy.  And when his time came, I’d do the same thing I’ll do for the dog I’ve raised from a puppy.

Elderly dogs deserve our love and care

But I can’t.  I’d love to blame it all on my toddler (who certainly detracts from our current senior dog’s peace), but he’s not the primary obstacle; I am.  I used to have pet rats (wonderful little creatures, and often similar to dogs in behavior) and I still would if it weren’t for their biggest drawback.  Rats don’t live long.  Sometimes you’ll come across  tough old codger who has made it to five, but from my own experience (which ironically included adopting rescue rats), the average life span was about two years.  And while I adored those creatures and would never give up a single memory, I eventually couldn’t do it anymore.  Two years was not enough.

That’s still my problem:  Two years is not enough.  I can’t deal with a death, no matter how loving and peaceful, every two years–if that long.  My (often overly) sensitive nature is the primary reason I know I could never be a vet  or even volunteer at a shelter.  I envy people with stronger constitutions and accept my own limits, no matter how much they suck.

And if you’re like me, it’s okay.  If the most you and I can do is promise to love, protect, and stay with our own pets until the end of their lives, then we are at least not contributing to the influx of old dogs sent to spend their final years in a cage.

But if you’re not like me–if you’re stronger than me and you want nothing more than to give old dog after old dog a beautiful end to their lives–then I say go forth, and keep the promise that someone else broke.

Make a promise to love, protect, and stay with your own pets until the end of their lives

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  1. We adopted an older dog; she literally followed my husband home. And while we dread the thought of her inevitable death, we are so grateful that she chose us–and, selfishly, that her original human never picked her up from us or from the shelter. She’s the sweetest, most loving dog we can imagine, and she’s been unbelievably patient as our toddler has learned the word “gentle.”

    It’s not for everyone, and I get that–there is a list of ways in which she is not the dog we ever planned to get. But she really has spoiled us for all other dogs.

  2. Older dog have sewed their oats so to speak. No more chewing on the furniture, usually house trained and appreciate the fact they were saved from being destroyed.
    There is one older dog that I transported to his foster that just stays in my memory. The guy kept him locked up because of his girlfriend and paid him no attention. I talked and sang to him for 4 hours. When it was time to turn him over it was so hard. But I already have 2 and my husband says that is it.
    The rescue I volunteer for takes in a lot of senior dogs. We fix them up and usually find homes for most. some we know will never make it out of the rescue due to cancer or some other disease that is cutting thier life short. Unlike their previous owners we try to keep them as comfortable as possible and make sure they know they are loved as they pass to the bridge. I wonder if people know how thier faithful companions are destroyed? So many pets needing rescue so few fosters

  3. I adopted ‘Baby’ at 5 months. An unwanted Belgian Shepherd Malinois with perhaps some other hound thrown in for good measure! We were home number 3 and she chewed furniture and carpets plus used our den as her ‘bathroom’. With love and patience plus excellent care from our vet Baby is now 12 years old. She has never been able to digest fat in her diet so it has been a constant battle to keep her weight over 50 lbs and her meds have cost a small fortune. She, like me, has a failing memory but she takes meds that are really helping. We both have osteoarthritis and we both take meds for that too so we have that covered! We all made a decision to move into a ranch home for Baby! YES! for our family doggie. With all this her blood tests and cardiovascular system is excellent. She is a senior dog. Who knows how long she has? I am 55 and WHO KNOWS HOW LONG I HAVE? My point is that as soon as Baby passes over and waits for me to join her it is my full intention to get another puppy AND a senior dog too. The reason? I need those ‘wise eyes’, the ‘old drool’ and that ‘husky bark’ to keep me grounded. Who drinks NEW wine? I am seasoned just the way I like my dogs!

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 25, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing your warm and touching story.

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