Loving Senior Pets

By on 13 January, 2016 in Lynne Burford, Pets with 1 Comment

I follow several dog related Facebook pages, most of which relate to rescue. There are happy stories, scary stories and heartbreaking stories. The ones which really break me are the ones relating to older dogs who are abandoned on the streets or in shelters. These “senior” dogs have often spent their entire lives with a family who for no acceptable reason decided it is no longer convenient to have them around.

Many of you probably read the story in 2014 of Ma Kettle, the senior Labrador named after one of these characters. Her elderly owner died and she found herself in a Kansas shelter. She was adopted, but then given away because she did not get along with the family’s new puppy. She escaped her third family, and walked 30 miles back to the family with the puppy. What did they do? Returned her to the shelter.

MaK 2

It takes a special kind of hard heart to choose to take a senior dog to a shelter.

Ma Kettle’s face and her story caught the eye of Helen Rosberg, who happens to be an heir to the Wrigley gum fortune and is a pretty passionate animal activist. Helen wasted no time. She dispatched her jet and two assistants and off they flew to Kansas. Ma Kettle, now named Lady, boarded the private plane and jumped into the arms of love.

MA KettleShe was Helen’s constant companion for a year, loving her life in Odessa, Florida, sleeping next to the woman whose heart was not hard in any places. She died peacefully and surrounded with love a year after she was saved.

I wonder how people with the hard hearts look at their parents as they age. Seniors need to be celebrated – whether they are human or four legged. Seniors write our histories. We have never been where they have walked, seen what they have seen, lived life as they have. They are so far from dispensable. They are gold.

Getting a pet is a lifetime commitment. It should never mean “as long as it is convenient.” A senior pet has, well, seniority over a new pet. You don’t throw out the old to bring in the new. I will never understand how any human can justify taking a dog or cat who has been a part of the family for 9, 10, or 15 years and leaving that animal at a shelter. You just don’t walk away from that commitment, unless you have one of those really hard hearts.

My rescue took in a little 10-year-old dog whose owner surrendered him to the shelter on Christmas Eve. Why? Because his new girlfriend thought he didn’t need a dog. He had owned the dog since it was 6-weeks-old. When the man walked out the door, the shelter director looked at her assistant and said “This dog is not spending Christmas at the shelter.” Her heart is soft, not hard.

The little guy was adopted into a wonderful, loving home last week. The adopter specifically wanted a senior dog. “They deserve respect,” she said. Plus, she claims they are the best snugglers.

As we enter into a new year, I hope we can all keep our hearts soft. Toward other people, and all living things, especially the ones full of wisdom, who might need a little help getting around, who might need a special diet, but who just want to be loved, touched, appreciated. Adopt a senior pet, visit a nursing home, go give your grandparent a hug. Make a difference. Be the heart that overflows with love!

Lynne Burford is a lifelong animal advocate who has been rescuing since she was a little girl. From birds and snakes to raccoons and foxes, she has rehabilitated and released back into the wild many orphaned and injured creatures. For the last ten years her focus has been on fostering and volunteering with rescues to place dogs into permanent and loving homes. Aside from various sizes of foster dogs, she owns a small pack of chihuahuas.

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  1. Sandra says:

    Lynne, thank you so much for this post. My husband and I lost two beloved pets last year; and after the first death we resolved from here foreward to adopt only old dogs. Our first, B.B., came to us February 20, 2015, and has filled our office and home with amazing love.

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