The Golden Retriever In Its Golden Years

When I review adoption applications submitted to GRFR, the request people make for a younger dog because they’ve just lost one or two dogs themselves sounds so familiar. When we brought 10-year-old Mazie into our home as our very first foster dog, we certainly had no intention of adopting her. We had very recently lost our first GRFR-golden to a third recurrence of cancer and our mixed-breed shelter dog 6 weeks later to lymphoma. They were both in the 11 to 12-year range when they passed. So, predictably, we said we wanted to adopt a younger dog. But we were happy to foster a senior. Seniors, as we knew from experience, are easy to live with.

Mazie was our first foster dog and was not in good shape when she arrived. In addition to a number of infections, she had heartworm. While we nursed her back to health, she filled the emptiness in our home and charmed her way into our hearts. We didn’t see any adoptive homes that we felt were right for her and that were willing to adopt a 10-year-old dog. So, in spite of our just losing our two dogs, we added her as a permanent family member, and we don’t regret it. She’s 13 years old now, still walks with us at least once a day, and often twice a day. She enjoys doing home visits, especially if there are young children in the home. She has not had any serious medical issues.

Senior dogs are often relinquished for different reasons than young dogs. It’s generally not for chewing, fence-jumping, or needing more exercise than the home can provide. Senior dogs are sometimes relinquished due to medical issues that can be cured or managed with proper veterinary care. They are often relinquished because their owner’s circumstance changes and they cannot have a dog in their new life. Once in a while, there is the senior dog that needs to be the only dog in the home or needs a home without young children. But those are the exceptions, and they can still make great companions for people with a complimentary lifestyle.

Senior dogs are almost never destructive in the home. Their toys last longer, as they have often moved past the age where they are obsessed with pulling out the stuffing and killing the squeaker. Tennis balls are less likely to lose their felt, much less be shredded into little bits of rubber. Mazie will still rearrange shoes or socks that might be left out, especially if we are away from home. She likes having our scent close by. She has never damaged anything, limiting her chewing to dog treats of various types, including large, raw carrots that are low in calories.

Senior dogs are an easier fit with many people’s modern lifestyle. A young dog can become easily bored with a family that spends time watching TV, working on the computer, or reading books. If a family has children that participate in sporting events, it’s not always possible for the family dog to attend. It takes commitment to provide a young dog with enough activity to tire him or her out every day. A senior dog will usually be happy with one or two 15 minute walks per day, but most are happy to go further when it suits their family. If the weather is bad and they miss a day’s walk, they are less likely to tear through the house jumping up on furniture to release pent-up energy. They don’t need to go to the dog park to carouse with their fellow dogs. They don’t need to play fetch until their owner’s arm is aching. They do well with a quieter, more sedentary lifestyle.

Senior dogs bond more quickly than you might expect. While all dogs go through an adjustment period when they change homes, senior dogs do not need an extended period of time to settle in and bond with their new family.

If you want a calm dog who will gladly accept your attention, but not demand all your time, consider adopting a senior dog. They are truly in their Golden Years!

– Donna W. GRFR volunteer

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