In the past month, BusyBee has seen two pairs of bonded senior dogs surrendered to her shelter along with countless other elderly canines. The most recent one cycled her off into a rage that quickly set off the other Snobs as well, and given how often we’ve talked about this privately, it was naturally time to share it with the rest of you. Look, we get that shit happens and sometimes people can’t keep a dog, but we would REALLY like to think that you’ve explored every last possible option before leaving your elderly dogs at a shelter. Call us cynical (we like to call it realistic), but we simply don’t think that’s always, or even usually, the case.
We’re going to talk about two different scenarios that we’ve seen play out regarding senior dogs being dumped at shelters.
1) The first is when owners drop off dogs they’ve had for their entire lives because of “lifestyle” issues. Can you imagine being in a home for thirteen years and given up because owners didn’t want to deal with typical senior health problems like sore joints or because the owners couldn’t find a way to bring along the creatures that love you more than anything to a new home? Depending on the shelter that you drop a dog at, you may very well be dumping that dog at a shelter to be euthanized. And even at a no-kill shelter, you have to realize that senior dogs don’t fare well in shelter environments and can be more difficult to adopt out because many people don’t want to the emotional and financial cost of taking home an older dog. And if you’re dropping off a bonded senior pair that needs to be adopted out together? Let’s just say that thankfully there are some VERY kind-hearted people out there that will open up their home to such a pair, but they are few and far between. Your life-long companions deserve better.
2) The second scenario, is one where a person drops off their dog, asks the shelter to euthanize it and walks away. When you get a puppy, or an adult dog, or whatever…. you commit to that dog. For the rest of it’s life, it is your responsibility. This especially holds true for the when the dog hits old age. We aren’t saying that we are against euthanizing old dogs. Sometimes that is the kindest route. But when you want to euthanize a dog for something that is easily treatable or for something the dog could live with for the two or three years it has left (see Daisy below)… well, we’d like to say we hope no one drops you off somewhere to die when you reach your final years, but we just aren’t that good of people. If your dog is in the sort of health that calls for euthanization… don’t be a coward. Your dog has stood by you through thick and thin. Dogs are there for you on your worst days and your best days. It’s up to you to stand in that Vet’s office and hold your dog until the end. You hold that dog and you tell her how wonderful she was. You bring up the wonderful times you had. You let that dog eat whatever it wants the day of and you don’t get upset when that dog has an accident because she’s too old to hold it anymore. If you love your dog, you love it up until that last breath and you keep on loving it forever. Dogs enter our life and they love us and they do their best to do what we ask of them. Dogs are our partners and our friends. In that last breath, dogs deserve to be held by the person they have devoted their entire lives to. They do NOT deserve to spend their last hours in a kennel with dogs barking frantically around them and they do NOT deserve to die in the arms of someone they don’t know.
Daisy, the dog that inspired the original draft of this article. She has now been adopted.
Let’s be clear–we are glad that these dogs are brought to the shelter instead of dumped on the side of the road, given away to any old jackass on Craigslist, or disposed of in any other inhumane manner. At least it gives some of them a chance to find a new home to live out their twilight years in. Obviously we don’t know the circumstances behind every story (we’re not psychic, sadly), but we have less understanding of the reasoning behind surrendering a 13 year old Golden who has lived with you their entire life than we do, say, of surrendering a 1 year old Cattle Dog when you realize that perhaps it was not a good match and that someone else is better equipped to raise that dog. Shit happens, some dogs aren’t good matches, and we can’t even begin to know what is going on in the human end that could be equally heartbreaking. Therefore, we want to be clear that we don’t advocate blindly shaming anyone who surrenders a dog to a shelter, but when it comes to seniors, forgive us if our hackles go up a little. If you’ve basically raised a dog through puppyhood, past adulthood, and into their senior years and you can’t or won’t move a mountain to make sure that dog spends every last day on earth with with you, then yeah, we reserve the right to be uncomfortable with that decision.
**Hoping to help out a senior dog by fostering or adopting? Check out the senior dog network to find local groups near you! **