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Casper Critters

Celebrate Seniors During National Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month

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11/01/2011 - By Gayle M. Irwin

Like senior people, senior pets provide many benefits to us all. Wisdom, experience, companionship, laughter, pause/paws… However, at times older age is overlooked and under-valued. Our society esteems youth and beauty, even in our pets. Senior animals are often overlooked when people visit animal shelters and consider adoption. November is National Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month, which provides a great opportunity to celebrate seniors!

More than three years ago, my husband and I adopted a 10-year-old cocker spaniel from the Casper Humane Society. Cody had been used as a breeding male, and when his owners decided he was no longer useful, they tossed him. Those people valued him only for his stud services – but they were the losers. Cody has been a loving, loyal companion for my husband and me ever since his adoption. He looks at us with admiration and gratitude, and his antics, even at 13 years of age, provide us great joy!

Not only am I grateful for the senior animals that are part of my life (our other dog, Sage, is now 12), but I am also thankful for the wisdom and memories of my grandparents and for the love and encouragement given by my parents, who now qualify as "senior citizens".

As the holidays approach, may we celebrate the specialness of seniors, both in people and in pets. If you think having an older pet is not worth the effort, think again. There are many great reasons to adopt a senior pet:

• Puppies and kittens require a great deal of time, patience and attention, and for busy people, those can be in short supply.

Older pets often come already trained, both in being housebroken/litter box trained, and, in the case of dogs, some basic obedience. And they are way past the "chew everything in sight" stage!

Older pets expend less energy – often, a simple walk around the neighborhood for an older dog is sufficient, and mature cats enjoy lounging in the sun more than chasing strings or feathers. So if you're not terribly active, an older pet might suit your lifestyle.

Some animal shelters and rescue groups have a "Senior Pet for Senior People" program, matching older people with older pets. This may even include a lower adoption fee. English Springer Rescue of America (ESRA), for example, has a Springer for Seniors program. If you're a senior citizen, check with the group from which you're considering adopting an animal to see if they have such a program.

Some people think if an older dog or cat is in the shelter there must be something wrong with it – not so! Many senior pets are relinquished because the owner can no longer care for them due to the person's declining health or even death of the owner. Some wonderful companion animals needing new homes are awaiting another chance to shower a family or individual with devotion and affection, just as they did with their previous owner.

Just like older people enjoy lavishing love on others, there are numerous older dogs and cats with lots of love and life yet to share. So, let's celebrate seniors (both people and pets) this month by loving and honoring them in return!

Gayle M. Irwin is the author of Sage's Big Adventure and Sage Learns to Share, stories about her blind Springer Spaniel, and a contributing author to two editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is also a former humane educator. Her new book, Learning to See: Life Lessons Learned from My Blind Dog, is scheduled for publication in Fall 2012. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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