Consider adopting a senior animal

A good girl

When Ruby was a pup, like most Wheaton terriers, she had a lot of energy. This meant that twice a day my husband or I would trade off long walks in the Blue Hills to tire her out. Our children were older and we were able to schedule these walks for the benefit of all involved. Now 13 years later Ruby’s exercise needs are more leisurely strolls with lots of smelling of roses or anything else that she passes. Ruby is still the same adorable and loving companion, just slower, wiser and less impulsive; traits I hope I have acquired.

At the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Animal Care and Adoption Centers, the first question we often hear is “Do you have any puppies/kittens?”... And why not, what’s not to love about puppies or kittens? On the flip side, many potential adopters don’t inquire about senior animals – and that’s a shame.

Adopting an infant animal comes with enormous responsibility and challenges. From house training, to manners training, to understanding that furniture, curtains, shoes and essentially anything that can be scratched, chewed or destroyed, is fair game.

For senior animals, many of them come to a shelter environment when their owner can no longer properly care for them or passes away. This can cause them confusion and in some cases depression; all they want is a loving owner and a home to call their own.

If you’ve never considered adopting a senior animal, here are 5 reasons why you should:

1. Lifestyle. Senior dogs require less walking, tend to sleep more and can be left alone for longer periods of time – a good fit for working professionals!

2. Training. While training is always beneficial (and you CAN teach old dogs new tricks), chances are that a senior dog will know his basic commands, how to walk on a leash, and is socialized.

3. Personality. The personality of an adult dog or cat is fully formed, so you know exactly what you’re getting when you bring him/her home. Essentially what you see is what you get!

4. Less Destructive. For most animals in their golden years, the destructive phase is typically a thing of the past.

5. Great Company. Senior animals don’t have the energy to burn off like puppies or kittens do, so it leaves more time to have fun or relax with your furry companion.

With a typical lifespan of 10-15 years, many looking for a companion animal are hesitant to adopt on the chance that they may not be able to properly care for them for their entire lives. Yes, it’s true that you won’t have a senior animal for as long as a puppy or kitten, but it’s important to remember that these animals are so grateful to go home with you, are just happy to be around you, and tend to fit into their new environment seamlessly.

While young at heart, senior animals are prone to age-related medical issues – just like humans. Every animal is of course different, and depending on the age and breed, you can expect to spend a little more time at the vet and may also need to introduce medications into the animal’s daily routine. Diet is also important as our pet’s age, so you will need to restrict your pet’s diet according to the advice given by your regular veterinarian.
When you adopt, you are saving two lives – the animal you’re adopting and the animal that will take their place. So if you’re thinking of adopting, the next time you’re at an ARL shelter, or any shelter for that matter, please consider a senior animal – believe me you won’t regret it!

Mary Nee is the President of the Animal Rescue League of Boston and resides in Dorchester. Pet questions? Email ARL at