The Indian culture is big on respect towards one’s elders, caring for elders and responsibilities towards our elders; most rituals have us acknowledging our ancestors in one way or another. Present times there is a lot of talk about the changing society, modernisation and western influence on our attitude towards elders; we bemoan the loss of our cultural values that enabled us to recognise the value of the senior most citizens of society. We lament the values bestowed upon our youth by western civilisation that allow them to abandon their elders when they need them most, more and more retirement facilities and old age homes are coming up as people become busier, longer work hours, expendable incomes all pushing us towards shirking our responsibilities towards our grandparents and parents.
In the midst of this, one kind of senior we neglect to mention is our pets. Children grow up, move out, get married, go abroad, babies are born, parents are getting older, our job has become more demanding or lack of good domestic help, all reasons the beloved family pet gets abandoned. Sometimes the novelty of having a pet wears off, not enough time to devote to them, they start needing more medical attention, or develop a medical condition that entails more expenses & vet visits or just require more care and attention than we had anticipated, or all of the above, and old Fido finds himself at the shelter, now a full-grown dog, perhaps in his twilight years, without home and family, all alone, in a strange and uncomfortable place, confused and depressed and most of all felling unloved and unwanted. And then there are the breeder rejects. Dogs who have outlived their use for their master, no more healthy or in the spring of life, their bodies ravaged with years of exploitation and are more a liability then a means to make fast money.
Adoption inquiries come in for pedigreed pups and kittens, or young dogs while the seniors languish at the shelter. Our pets deserve just as much respect and love as they grow older as our human elders do, but they rarely if ever receive it. They deserve the same love and affection as pups but they are hard pressed to find any. They are always overlooked for the young, the energetic and the high on “cuteness” factor.
Ironically any shelter worker will tell you that senior dogs make for excellent pets, though they have a tough time educating people about the same. Despite what people choose to believe, senior dogs are a joy to bring home and can be an excellent choice for beginners and seasoned pet owners alike. They may not always possess the energy levels of a puppy, and that is where the boon lies.
Senior dogs often come with basic training. While a small adjustment period may be required, they are generally housebroken and know basic commands like sit, stay and no. They also have clearly defined personalities & temperaments that of course can be moulded over time, so being blindsided by an acute behavioural or temperamental trait is unlikely. Unlike puppies that have boundless energy and go through teething, a senior dog will simply curl up and settle into his corner of your house.
Seniors are calmer, easier to manage & walk and make for excellent companions. They are generally abandoned by previous owners and extremely grateful for the love and attention and also generous in giving it. While some may require some medical care, others can be quite spry and ready companions on long walks and hikes.
In the last years of their lives they need security, stability and the reassurance that your love provides. All their lives they drown us in unconditional love and affection and it behoves us to return this affection and allow them to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
As we write this piece, a female Rottweiler was brought into the shelter from the streets in an absolutely loathsome state. Extremely anaemic with hip dysplasia to boot, unresponsive and in extreme pain, it was too late to help her. She passed away in the anonymous arms of Friendicoes team member, but the least she deserved was to know the love of her family and have them by her side in the end. But for many abandoned dogs that is not to be. Selfishly however we pass over older dogs to save ourselves the heartbreak of an early goodbye, denying these seniors one last shot at a happily ever after.
Rare exceptions are people like Ambuj and Khushboo, who adopted 8-year-old Labrador girl Bless and 8-year-old Beagle girl Nyla from Friendicoes recently. Alas such angels are few and far between. Ambuj specifically asked to adopt a senior pet and one who needed a home the most. He met both Bless and Nyla. Bless had the start of cataract/glaucoma already and Nyla suffered from skin problem as well as urinary inconsistence meaning a weak bladder, unable to control her pee. But these lovely humans were undaunted by their age or medical issues. In fact, they were even more determined to do their very best. Bless went home first soon to be followed by Nyla. To see them now blossoming in the bosom of love, these old girls behave like little puppies, pampered by the entire family, loved and cherished as they deserve to be.
And then, miraculously it was Buzo’s turn. Buzo, again an eight-year-old, a Golden Retriever boy no less, had waited 6 months for a home, during which period he also lost his best buddy Casper. Not only was age against Buzo he also had an unpredictable streak a mile wide making it impossible to find him the ideal home. We were fast losing hope when Kamna & Nishant stepped up for the job. Their love, patience and understanding coupled with their two beautiful ladies Mishka and Tallulah (both abandoned pets adopted from Friendicoes) worked it’s magic and Buzo has settled right in to his new life playing sugar daddy to the two young ladies. It is like he was born into the family and not just recently adopted.
It is all about providing a second chance to these beautiful old souls. Something not everyone has the generosity of spirit or the courage to do. While we cheer for the lucky ones, and despair over the ones left behind, we hope & pray for each one of them to walk happily into the sunset.