GSR-SP is desperately seeking potential foster parents! Have you considered fostering? Read this story, it will inspire you! Then fill out our volunteer application and we can see if fostering may be right for you! Thanks for thinking of the dogs!


The Rewards of Adopting the Senior Dog

written by Ruth Lawson - GSR-SP Volunteer

"Old dogs are like old shoes, they are comfortable. They may be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well." Bonnie Wilcox, Old Dogs and Friends

Each GSD that comes into rescue comes with a story. All are sad, but none more so than those of the seniors who were faithful companions for years and now have been abandoned by those they loved. Unlike young dogs and puppies who are most often turned in to shelters for behavioral problems (often due to lack of training), most older dogs have lived with families where they were valued, at least for a while – and now they are confused and depressed. "We're tired of having a dog", "we can't (won't) pay for the medicine he needs", "we have a baby now", "we have a change in 'lifestyle', these are the stories shelter and rescue workers hear every day. In other cases a guardian has died or a couple divorced. Remember, most dogs that come into rescue aren't there because there's something wrong with the dog – more likely, there is something wrong with the people they lived with.

Experienced rescue workers report that the most rewarding work they do is fostering and re-homing senior dogs. Working with these dogs is relatively easy – the difficult task is educating the public, especially potential adopters, about the many positive aspects of adopting an older dog.

Why would anyone consider adopting a senior GSD when so many younger dogs are available? Diane, a GSR-SP volunteer who has fostered (and nursed back to health) many dogs, reports that working with seniors is very, very satisfying and says "they never take you for granted like the young 'princes' will!" Adopting an older GSD makes a statement about compassion and the value of all life. Again and again, rescuers and adopters state "I get more from working with senior dogs than I could possibly give back to them."

Victoria, a rescue worker for eight years, has opened her own home to several seniors and has fostered others. She say that seniors are so grateful for the love they receive it's as though they can sense that they are safe, they are loved, and now they can be at peace for their final years. "I've raised puppies and shared my life with many senior dogs – and frankly, I'll take a senior any day!"

One commonly voiced fear is whether a rescue GSD will bond with the adopting family. Anyone who has worked in rescue for even a short period of time can tell you that, in fact, most rescue dogs will not only form a bond with you, they will become attached to your hip! Remember, you have saved them from a certain fate, and have provided them with probably the best home they have ever had. They now have everything they ever dreamed of -- a bed, toys, plenty of food, treats, kisses, loving treatment, and companions to play with and their desire to reciprocate your love for them is very strong. Their biggest fear is that you will disappear!

After what is usually a brief "settling in" period, a senior GSD will adapt to your schedule and household routines quickly, happy to be part of a loving home. Most have had some training, both in obedience and house manners, which allows them to more easily make this transition especially when they are treated with respect, kindness and patience. Forming a bond is not the problem – finding a way to un-attach the GSD that is Velcro-ed to your hip might be!

A senior GSD, particularly one who has been in a foster situation for a thorough evaluation, can be matched to a new home that will fit "just right". Their personality is known, you don't have to guess what they'll be like as adults as you do with a puppy or young dog, no matter how carefully chosen. If you are considering a younger dog, remember that GSDs do not become mature adults until they are at least 3 years of age, and many don't mature fully until 4 or older. Developing personalities can present innate behavioral problems – and have landed any number of unfortunate younger dogs in shelters.

Speaking of training, an older GSD is also the perfect solution for someone who loves dogs, wants to have one, but does not have the time or the energy level to raise and train a puppy or young dog. If you are a senior human who has always loved big dogs, adopting a senior GSD can provide the best of all worlds. A senior dog is calmer, more manageable, and has less exercise requirements than a younger dog – thus allowing potential adopters to continue to share the companionship of a GSD even as their own physical capabilities may decline somewhat.

Senior GSDs can also a good match for families with small children. Puppies have needle sharp teeth that they sink into everything including children, their nails scratch like crazy, and they don't know the difference between their toys and the treasured toys of your children. An older dog who is road-tested with children is more tolerant than a puppy, is already trained, and is much less work than a puppy. At the same time, the GSD can provide a wonderful introduction to the world of dogs to your children and their playmates.

Another reservation held by many is the fear that they will only have a short time to share with their new companion. The fact is that no one lives forever and life holds no guarantees. Melissa has rescued four senior dogs in recent years, two through a rescue who were given up because of a new baby and two privately. She has had to bid farewell to two of them in the past year because of illness. "I wouldn't trade the years I had with them for anything – each brought so much to my life. Whatever their life was like before, I know that the best years of their life were spent with me, and that gives me great comfort." Like all things that we love, we should treasure the time we have with each animal that is part of our lives.

When you adopt a senior GSD, you are guaranteed one thing – a grateful companion who will add purpose to your life and life to your steps. What could be better to come home to than the sloppy kisses and a wagging tail? A Senior GSD will be your devoted friend…for life.

If you are considering adopting a senior GSD you might enjoy visiting the Senior Dogs Project on the web for more information as well as inspiring stories from successful senior adoptions. You are also welcome to contact us at GSR-SP to speak with volunteers who have devoted their efforts especially to working with our senior rescue GSDs.


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