Today I was asked to help a senior black lab at a pound in TN. A beautiful girl…I looked at the gray on her muzzle, her knowing face, and my heart broke for her. I really cannot take another on right now, especially a female, so I told the sender that I’d get her information out to all that I knew. They say she’s perfect, minus being far too overweight, and that she’s sad. What a terrible end to reach…the pound, nobody wanting you, not knowing what happened to your family and why they’re not looking for you. Agonizing. I’m praying I can find someone to help her.

As you know, seniors are a tremendous love of mine. Many have asked, “Why help those when they’re not adoptable and nobody wants them?” As I’m sure I’ve written before, I answer “You don’t ditch your family when they’re old, and you shouldn’t do it to animals…” especially when they’ve done nothing but devote their life to you. In regard to strays – to live a life of no love, no luxuries, no companionship and struggling through every day…to die in the pound without family is not a way to end it.

When you take a look at the aged, however, there’s really no reason to ignore them. I realize that many come with health issues, but so do the young. Even if it requires treatment for the remaining of the animal’s life, yes, it happens in younger animals, as well. Granted, it may not be as often, but does that mean they are less worthy?

Some feel that you have no time with them before they die, and it’s too sad or even not worth the heartache of losing them. This is exceptionally frustrating because yes, it’s most worth it. Even a day or a few hours of love and happiness in a dog can erase the years of neglect or abuse that they’ve endured. You’d be amazed at how their faces can light up with a pet on the head, a car ride, a bone, or a soft bed. Even frolicking in the yard can make their entire life worthwhile. When you see an elderly dog’s face light up, when you see he or she smile, or when you see the dog do a back dance in the lush grass, you experience a feeling of joy that cannot be explained. They went through life to end it with that beautiful moment. For those that lost their family, they ended up finding someone that loved them just as much or more…how can that be downplayed?

Seniors bring merriment like nothing else can. They are wise, appreciative, well behaved and possess a personality of their own. They are always comical, expressive, calm and have little idiosyncrasies that make them genuine. Each one that comes through my doors shows me something fresh and new, and how vital it is to our lives.

For instance, Arnie came to me so, so painful…aching, stabbing, nonstop, inflaming pain from arthritis that nobody offered to relieve. All he knew was that every day brought more agony; he was depressed and angry. I gave him a pill and a soft bed to cushion his joints. That pill changed Arnie’s life, and suddenly he enjoyed food, he loved the sunshine, and he enjoyed trotting around the yard, soaking everything in. The bed made his sleep sound and his naps more enjoyable. A pill + a bed = complete happiness.

Wilma was so incredibly thin, had been hit by a car, obviously been smacked around and was depressed. Food and hugs changed Wilma’s life. She changed overnight into a vibrant and jubilant lady, playing with the young dogs and swatting them with her nerve damaged paw. She smiled every day and danced when she was playful.  She loved, loved, loved to be hugged.

Grace-A-Rue was losing hope and the desire to go on after losing her family. Her faced drooped and she was about to give up. Yet when she saw the chance to ride in a car, she lightened up and ran as fast as her short little legs would take her. She saw my home and she knew it was hers. After a short lived adjustment to so many dogs, she learned that if she looked at them and barked, she got her way. She also learned to bark at me to get what she wanted, and even threw in the stomping of her feet to let me know she meant business. When she did it she wore a devilish grin and wagged her itty bitty nub of a tail. She loved that I would talk back to her and ultimately do what she wanted…and she’d always kiss me to say thank you. Even when times were tough, and the Megaesophagus was ruling our lives and ripping both of us to shreds emotionally, she still wanted to stomp her feet and bark at me. It was our game, and I loved playing it.

I miss each and every one of them, for they each crossed the bridge in my arms. I had Wilma for over a wonderful year, Rue for a fabulous seven months, and Arnie for one amazing month. Was it hard to let them go? Of course. Did I hurt as a result of losing them? It’s unavoidable. Do I regret giving so much time and effort to them, only to watch them leave shortly thereafter? Never. They brought sparkle to my days…big, bright sparkles that shone like New York lights. Why on earth anyone would want to miss that joy, be it short lived or not, is beyond me.

I’ve suggested it many times…do not only consider a senior, but adopt one. So many end their lives on a table in a cold, empty room with people they barely know or whom they’ve just met. It’s not a way to leave after living so many years. Take the time to enjoy their vibrancy and enthusiasm. Enjoy the abundance of love they’ll communicate to you in their eyes, their smile and their affection. Think about how you’ll change their lives, be it a few hours or a few years, simply because you gave them kindness and devotion. Not only will you brighten their days, but you’ll reap the reward of a love that cannot be compared.

So go ahead…type in Petfinder.com or hit your local shelter and look for an elderly dog in need of love. Take the opportunity to open your heart and let an old girl or boy walk inside to find warmth. You will not only adore the animal, but you’ll learn to love yourself through their quiet teachings.

They are beautiful, gracious souls…let’s give them what they’ve earned.  It’s an act that you’ll never regret.

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