November is Adopt A Senior Pet Month! It's a great time to 1. give our senior pets a loving pat on the head, 2. tell someone why older dogs are a desirable addition.

Frequently, puppies are brought into young families for the express purpose of being the kids' pal and teaching them responsibility and compassion. Ten years later, the kids leave for college and the dog is left without a purpose. Dogs who find a new family at this stage can continue in their original role of companionship for many more years. Senior dogs are also left homeless when their owners die or become unable to care for them.

The advantages of adopting a senior dog over a young animal are numerous. Seniors typically come with some basic manners already trained, are less destructive & disruptive, and need less exercise. Being set in their ways, they are less likely to develop unexpected aggression, separation anxiety, or phobias. Many prefer hanging out with their people to roaming or playing with other dogs, making them excellent companions. A healthy senior, however, is just as trainable as a young dog-- they can be better, in fact, at learning new tricks because they have "learned to learn". Behaviorally, older dogs are a bargain for a family.

What makes most people leery of adopting a senior dog are health issues and the prospect of having to say goodbye to a beloved animal much sooner. Dog longevity is between 8 and 18 years, with smaller breeds tending to live the longest. One of the biggest threats to senior health is overfeeding and obesity, which puts strain on joints and circulation. A healthy dog should have a visible waist, or if very furry, the first rib should be easily felt. A rationed diet low in carbs helps keep weight off low-activity seniors. Although they need less exercise, dogs of all ages should get a daily walk at whatever distance leaves them pleasantly worn out, with the mental stimulation of experiencing the world. A fit senior will live longer and happier.

Sasha, adopted at age 7

Older dogs also benefit from inexpensive supplements for joint health and raw bones to chew for dental health. Elderly dogs may need some extra help with stairs or getting in and out of cars. When the final days approach, senior dogs give us the hard decision of letting them go, of letting our love decide what is best for them and our hearts assure us that we did our best to make their final years safe and happy in our affections.
Find a senior dog in need of a home at one of the many Nor Cal pet rescues or at Petfinder.com

Photo: "Sasha", adopted at age 7, rested at age 13. Worth every minute.