The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Columns

May 18, 2013

Maleah Stringer: Pets, like humans, can get better with age

ANDERSON, Ind. — As I mentioned in the column last week the Animal Protection is full to the brim with wonderful adoptable pets. Unfortunately many of these pets are seniors, 8-plus-years-old.

Many are released to us by their owners. The reasons vary. Whenever possible we offer assistance to help keep a pet in the home. Sometimes people accept our offer of help with a great deal of crying and gratitude. They did not want to give up their companions but were left with few options. We love it when we can keep these aging pets with their loving owners.

But unfortunately, more times than not the owners release these aging pets to us. Often these animals simply cannot take the stress of a shelter. They shut down, stop eating and stop responding. Their sadness breaks our hearts. We immediately start networking to try and get these animals into foster homes. We have some wonderful fosters who only foster aging pets. They usually end up keeping them for the rest of the pets’ lives.

We have found that generally it is difficult to adopt aging pets. People tell us that even though the animal has a lovely disposition, is affectionate and house-trained that they really do prefer a younger pet. Their reasoning: since the pet is older, they believe their time with that pet will not be as long as they like, they will get attached and then their hearts will be broken. There is no guarantee that simply because a pet is younger that he will live a certain amount of years.

We have many senior adopters who come in wanting a kitten or a puppy when an older animal would be a much better fit. Other potential adopters who are not very active would make a senior pet a wonderful home but time and time again pick a pet who is more active than they are. This usually does not end well, the pet does not stay in the home and comes back to the shelter because he is simply too much for them to handle.

It seems that often we treat our aging pets with the same mentality that we treat aging humans — with less dignity, love and respect than they deserve. Our society seems to have a love affair with youth while often missing out on all the love, wisdom and loyalty of older pets and people.

As loving pet owners it is our responsibility to care for our pets through their entire lives and to not throw them away as they age. If a potential pet owner cannot make that commitment then perhaps he should rethink getting a pet.

There are wonderful senior pets in your local shelter sad and lonely waiting for someone to see their inner beauty. I believe that we humans and our pets only get better as we age. It is only after the follies of youth that our true beauty can shine. Don’t miss out on a wonderful person or pet simply because they are no longer young. It is your loss.

Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 356-0900 or at maleahstringer@aol.com.

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