Adopting a Senior Pet


Adopting a senior dog

Maggie with her new family – inset – Maggie at the pound, taken by Jo Lynons

The adoption of a senior pet is an honour and can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Rocky’s K9 Rescue has successfully (very successfully – happy faces all round) re-homed many senior dogs and a few senior cats as well. Senior pets once had a family and a life. For whatever reason, they end up at the pound. Before we move onto tips on adopting a senior dog, here is the story of Maggie. Maggie (short for Magpie, her adopted name) is a Border Collie cross who was about 10-11 years of age when she arrived at the pound. Maggie was not microchipped or desexed.  She was rescued by Rocky’s and adopted by one of Rocky’s volunteers.

Maggie’s Journey

Maggie was very shy at first,unsure – until you patted or spoke to her. Then her dear old face shone and her eyes hit you with a beam of love. Unfortunately, the very first thing she needed was a bath – which she hated but tolerated. She had tons of fleas, so the bath had to be repeated the next day. Next came a dose of Comfortis,  and we left her to rest. Rest she did – for 3 or 4 days all she did was sleep, eat and shyly walk over for a pat.  We very gently introduced her to our other dogs, and she become accustomed to her new surroundings. She became a little more confident each day. It seemed to us that Maggie had been on a property. Clues were firstly she wouldn’t drink from a water bowel, only the saucers of outdoor plants. Our 2 other dogs are very friendly and social, – they became great friends with Maggie very quickly. Going out to parks was quite a new thing for her. We decided that instead going to lots of new places, we’d stick to one park. The strategy worked and within 2 weeks, she was not only comfortable going to the park,  but howling with joy when we picked up the lead.

We fed Maggie really top quality food and after only a few short weeks her overall health improved by about 80%. Her coat shone and she had a skip in her step. She stayed downstairs all of the time, and finally one day summoned up the courage to go upstairs where she encountered carpet for what we assume was the first time in life. She seemed to think it was indoor grass and treated it accordingly!!!  We told her ‘no’ and she never had an accident on it again. She just didn’t know what it was. Today Maggie is a happy contented girl. She has blended in beautifully with our other 2 dogs and the three of them adore each other. Maggie has not had any health issues since we adopted her – in fact her health in general improves each month.  She really is an inspiration. Her ability to adapt and readjust with such grace has been a privilege to watch. We found she knew some commands such as ‘sit’ and we’ve taught her to ‘wait’ – in about two 10 minute sessions. Proves you can teach an old dog a new bark! We love the socks off her.

Tips for Settling in your Senior Dog

After caring for their immediate needs, arrange their bed in a safe place and give them a few days to just “arrive”…your senior babe has lost a lot. The experience of being taken from their home and taken to a pound is extremely traumatic. Pounds are for one thing, very noisy places. Some pounds are staffed by very dedicated and caring people, but it’s still hard. If your new babe has been in foster care, then they will have had a chance to recover. Whatever, your new babe needs to settle in slowly. In no time at all, they will begin to understand they are in a safe place.

  • Talk softly to them often – tell them how beautiful they are..
  • If they have been given a new name, say it often
  • Pat and comfort them often
  • Feed them high quality food
  • Prepare a bed that is just for your new friend, somewhere safe
  • Start with short walks nearby, let them get to know their local area
  • Closely supervise meetings with children
  • Closely supervise meetings with existing pets
  • Try some commands and see what they know
  • Feed them small meals frequently
  • Keep them on lead when out of the house at all times for the first few weeks