by Barry KuKes
Animal shelters and rescues everywhere, including right here in Volusia County, often must care for much older animals. In many cases, the animals’ health is failing, but they are not to the point of end-of-life services. Like senior services available for humans, animal shelters need senior animal adopters who will step up and care for an animal during its’ final phase of life before crossing over the rainbow bridge.
Being a senior animal adopter requires a special type of person. Recognizing that the animal being adopted may die within a relatively short amount of time is helpful. Keeping their emotions under control and knowing how to deal with the loss is the more difficult task. I have met several senior animal adopters, and they have always been the nicest and most caring people. They choose to be a senior animal adopter because they want the animal to have the best possible care during their final time of life, albeit a few months or years.
Unfortunately, some animal owners will surrender their senior pets to animal shelters because they can no longer care for the animal physically or financially. Some surrender because they want a younger pet, so they trade in their older pet for a new pet. This is very sad. A dog or cat is not like a used car that you trade-in for a new shiny penny; they are living creatures that deserve the love of their pet parent right until the very end. Surrendering due to an inability to provide care is one thing, but surrendering an older animal and then adopting or purchasing a new puppy because you have tired of the older dog or cat is not the right thing to do. Don’t abandon the older pet. Help the senior animal over the rainbow bridge, and then when you are ready, adopt a new pet, young or old.
Many pet owners will bring in their older pet experiencing difficulty walking, breathing, or has stopped eating, etc., and request that the animal be euthanized. As an owner, the request can be made to reduce the pain and suffering of the animal. Still, we often suggest the owner seek veterinary services for their pet before opting for euthanasia. Sometimes, trouble walking might be arthritis that can be treated with pain management medications. There is no reason to rush to euthanasia without exploring some of the other options available.
Some owners will surrender their pets with authorization to euthanize should the procedure become necessary. These are the animals that often need senior animal care. They are older and have some health conditions, but they are not on deaths’ door yet. They need a lovely, comfortable home to live out the rest of their days. The adopter will take care of the animal as they would any other pet, including paying for medications and veterinary care when necessary.
I have friends who go out of their way to adopt senior dogs. They come to the shelter seeking senior dogs only and usually find several that need a loving home. They realize that the dog they are adopting may only be around for a short time, but they want to give the dog a haven away from the noise and distractions of a shelter environment for the balance of the dog’s life.
True animal lovers will most likely cry and feel sad when their senior animal passes, even if the pet has only been a part of their lives for a short time. They take solace in knowing they provided the animal love, comfort, attention, and support that otherwise may have never happened.
If your love of animals is more significant than your fear of loss and sorrow, please consider adopting a senior animal. Seniors deserve a happy and loving home too. Remember, adopt, don’t shop.
Barry KuKes is the Community Outreach Director for the Halifax Humane Society. You can reach Barry at 386.274.4703, ext. 320, or BarryK@halifaxhumanesociety.org