A Late Hello – Adopting a Senior Dog

A Late Hello

Aint but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime,
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

The old song by Tom T. Hall went through my mind as I began to think about getting another dog, after the untimely and accidental death of my 13 1/2 year old Labrador Retriever. This month was the only time I’d been without at least one Lab in my life in the past 34 years. And Sandy was one of two very special Labs I’d owned. I was grief stricken without her.

But one day, about a month after she was gone, I spilled some crackers on the floor and exclaimed, “I need a dog!” Strangely, my husband, the Confirmed Cat Man, agreed. Our local paper coincidentally the previous day had ran a story from our county animal shelter about seven senior dogs that had been turned in, some because of the economy, and had little chance of adoption. And one of those was an 11 year old chocolate Labrador named Hayley. Her photo just called out to me. So the next morning I called about her.

I filled out the adoption papers, and took her home that same afternoon. What a sweetheart of a dog, with a very soft temperament. When I got home, I asked my hubby, “Do you love me?” which he took to mean (correctly) I’d done something. As he walked by the the bag of dog food I’d set on the counter, he said, “Well, if that isn’t for a goat, I guess it’s not too bad.” Yes, he was pleased to see her smiling face in the car. Hayley had found her forever home.

Photo of Hayley, a chocolate Labrador Retriever
Hayley giving her starving dog impression

When I told my youngest son that I’d adopted an older dog, he said, “Mom, you’re setting yourself up for heartbreak again.” I said to him, “Son, the only heartbreak is seeing a senior dog in a small cage, spending their last days without a home.” I reminded him there are no sure things in life, I could walk out the door and get hit by a truck.

A senior dog is the way to go. Some people would worry about the extra money spent on veterinary care, but when you add up the cost over the years of a puppy or young dog, not to mention chewed up shoes, furniture, etc., it all equals out. The only thing a senior dog wants is a warm loving hand to pet him, some food in his bowl twice a day, maybe some medication for arthritis, and a nice bed in which to curl up. Pretty much the same as we humans need.

Too Soon Goodbye

That first afternoon, she was coughing. Her medical records showed nothing about a bordetella vaccine, so I assumed she had kennel cough. I called my vet and set up an appointment. The doctor confirmed it was probably kennel cough, but was a little concerned about some lung congestion she heard. She took a couple of xrays, and came back with a somber look on her face. The xrays showed a lung tumor. What devastating news, as Hayley had already bonded with me, and I with her.

Treatment consists of open chest surgery at a specialized hospital (none in my state) and at least seven day stay there for recovery. And several thousands of dollars. As I began to think about winning the lottery so I can afford this surgery, I asked how long she had. The doctor said maybe months, maybe a couple of years.

Photo of Hayley the senior Lab in the snow
Hayley loves to roll in the snow

There are no guarantees with a younger dog, either. Puppies and young dogs can have accidents, health problems, and genetic diseases which shorten their life spans. And although our time with Hayley will be limited, she will live a well loved life until the time comes for her to cross the Rainbow Bridge. But that goes for any dog you rescue. And no senior dog should ever have to be in a shelter, unadoptable, just because of age and health issues. That’s so very wrong.

Please consider adopting a senior dog. Don’t let the risk of an early goodbye stop you. There are so many that need homes, often through no fault of their own. Especially in these economic times, when people are losing their homes and have to give up their dogs, YOU can provide a loving environment for these wonderful seniors. They’re trained, they’re mellow, they’re wise. All they want is a warm bed, some good food and lots of loving. And maybe some snow to roll in if they’re a Labrador Retriever. They deserve that love and care in their final days, as we all do, but especially our dogs.

Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes;
God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate.

About The Author:
Sue Clark had dogs all her life and exclusively Labrador Retrievers since 1976. She’s bred, trained and shown them in conformation, obedience and for hunting certificates, and was a foster mom for breeding stock from Leader Dogs for the Blind. Her love for the breed is due to their marvelous versatility, and the wonderful companionship they provide. Her first Lab, Duke, was the bad boy of all bad boys. If one thinks Marley of the book/movie “Marley and Me” was bad, they never met Duke.

Being a Lighthouse lover, author, blogger and preservationist, you can keep up with Sue and receive all of the news and features about our coastal beacons, worldwide, on the www:
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* Lighthouses Light Up Your Life, Unless They’re Haunted!

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18 Responses

  1. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

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  7. Ratbone Rescues
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  8. HART (1-800-HART)
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  9. Chinchilla Place
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  10. Chinchilla Place
    | Reply

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  11. Rebecca Leaman
    | Reply

    Oh, I so agree with you! Older dogs bring something soft and rich and infinitely precious to the human-canine relationship, all the sweeter because we know from the very beginning that our time together will be short.

    Hayley is beautiful in all ways, and I know that when her time does come to an end, you’ll draw a great deal of comfort from knowing that you gave her not only some extra time by “rescuing” her from the shelter, but the highest possible quality of life for those extra days, months, maybe (hopefully) years.

  12. Are Morch
    | Reply

    Great article here from Sue..

    Sounds like my wife.. dough all the dogs we adopted is young ones. Hayley looks like a great dog. Since I am allergic I focus on non-allergic dogs.

    Two of our dogs are labs. One of them struggle with bad hips, so she don’t keep up with me when we take our dogs out for a walk. So she follow my wife’s pace. Seems like they are planning a dog park here in Tupelo, which is really cool.

    Cheers.. Are

  13. Ching Ya
    | Reply

    Beautifully done. Sue, you have brought up a very touching, real life story of any senior dogs could have been through. We are all hoping for younger pets, sometimes overlooking a few things we could have done to make a difference. Loud and clear, Sue. Thank you for sharing this.

    Social/Blogging Tracker

  14. Ching Ya
    | Reply

    Touching reminder: A Late Hello – Adopting a Senior Dog~ http://bit.ly/cMhkZx –via @PetLvr

  15. Sue
    | Reply

    Thanks everyone for all the tweets on this. If just one person considers adopting a senior, it will be well worth it.

    @Rebecca Leaman, Thanks for the nice words and vote of hope for Hayley. I know you’ve recently adopted a senior, and know how precious the time is with them.

    @Are Morch, Good to hear on getting the dog park. We have several here in Maine, but none of them close to me. Dogs (and people) love them. P.S. Gotta love those Labs.

    @Wchingya, Thanks for the nice comments on this. The last I knew, of the seven senior dogs our local shelter had, three were adopted, but four are still waiting. I wish I could bring them all home. But the cat would REALLY go into hiding. 🙂

  16. APR
    | Reply

    Excellent article. Readers should also consider my website. http://lonedream.blogspot.com/

    It is a blog about sharing loneliness and dealing with aging.
    Directory Includes:
    Top 10 Inspirational Older People
    Top 10 senior hobbyists sites
    Top 10 pet benefits for erlerly


  17. Archie Right
    | Reply

    Great article! It’s optimistic and sad at the same time. But I do agree with you – it is definitely worth adopting a senior dog. I was only surprised to learn that the shelter had no idea about Hayley’s health condition. I’ve studied several shelters and rescues (Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue for instance) and they always have their dogs carefully examined for any diseases. But somehow I’m pretty sure that even if you knew about her illness earlier it wouldn’t have really made any difference.
    Hope you’ll still have many enjoyable days together!

    Best Regards,
    Archie Right

  18. Sue
    | Reply

    Hi Archie,

    Thanks for the nice comments. She was examined by a vet at the shelter, but it was just a cursory glance. And I don’t think among the 28 or so dogs they ever paid any attention to her coughing. So it’s understandable, in a way.

    Unfortunately, Hayley was helped to the Rainbow Bridge at the end of April. Between the lung tumor and liver involvement, her quality of life was nil. She was taking so many pills (which was a challenge with her…the ultimate pill hider :)) that her nights especially were horrible. It was heartbreaking to watch. She was bloated with ascites, and it sounded like she was drowning when she breathed (in between the pain panting).

    But, after three months, I adopted another Lab, this time from a high kill shelter in Georgia. She was pulled by SOS Labrador Retriever Rescue at the last moment and made her way up to Maine for adoption. The group saw her as a perfect fit for me, and they were so right. She’s eight years old, but she can still do the “butt tuck boogie” like a youngster. It’s really funny, too, how these rescue dogs can bond with you. It’s almost like they knew their time was going to be up and are grateful. And surprisingly, even Labs are included in this group. I say surprisingly because Labs are not thought of as particularly loyal, i.e., where they hang their food bowl is their home. 😉

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