I don’t think that I’ve mentioned it on here before but I actually spent quite a bit of my free time – and almost all of my annual leave – volunteering with various animal welfare charities. As a result of this, I come into contact with lots of dogs who for whatever reason, are in need of a new home.
And yes, the puppies are flipping adorable and when you look at a young dog, it’s exhilarating to see so much potential, but my particular favourites are the older dogs.
Having a puppy is like having a baby. Having an older dog is like having a friend.
A common misconception is that, with the exception of the ‘blank slate’ puppies, dogs must have done something ‘wrong’ to end up in rescue. That is so not true. Certainly, some find their way there because of poor behaviour, which is generally down to poor training, which is the fault of the owners and generally remediable, but for the most part, dogs aren’t abandoned because they are irredeemably poor characters. Frequently they are surrendered to the shelters for other, heartbreaking reasons – a house move following a divorce, a change in working hours, a child’s allergies.
Thinking before I act is a concept that has eluded me since childhood, so when I decided to adopt a dog of my own, I leapt in feet-first. I was volunteering at a dog shelter on a Greek island at the time and had fallen wildly in love with a small orange puppy who followed me around and slept tucked up in my jumper like a baby kangaroo.
It didn’t take long for me to decide that I couldn’t leave him at the shelter, and guilt made me decide to take two of the older dogs too.
One beautiful, shining tabula rasa baby. Two older dogs with no history and a lifetime of experience behind them. Who do you think proved to be the most difficult to manage?
Not Cordelia Worzeldog, who faced every day of her life with courage until she was taken by the disease that I knew she had when I adopted her.
Not Posy, who walked out of that shelter a paragon and continues to make me look like a steller dog trainer rather than just her lucky guardian.
Luckily for me, my in-laws were in the market for a puppy. Even more fortunately, they had the time and resources to cater to his baby needs and then his adolescent quirks and then his young-adult naughtiness until finally, aged almost three, he is beginning to turn into a reasonable dog.
Almost three. That’s two and a half years of puppy chewing and shredding, rambunctious don’t-care-if-I-flatten-you playing, refusal to come back in the park, an absolutely mortifying incident where he stole somebody’s woolly winter hat right off of their head (and no – he was NOT allowed off-lead for some time after that!) and other horrible but quite normal behaviour.
You guys, puppies bite. And that’s normal. They have horrible needle-like teeth and they don’t half chomp down with them.
The older dog, on the other hand, generally comes to you with a bit of training. Their gums aren’t throbbing with emerging teeth and they know not to defecate on your carpet.
A good rescue centre will evaluate the dogs. Your new friend will be assessed around children, around other animals. No hidden surprises. You know what you’re getting; they’re grown and for the most part, their personalities are formed. So are their bodies – your tiny mongrel won’t suddenly stretch into a donkey.
Some of them have this glorious, quiet dignity. Some are just so grateful for a warm place to sleep that it breaks your heart.
I have found that the older dog gives back more than she takes. She is not so needy. She has more patience with her owner’s flaws and ineptitudes. If you’re lucky, you will aquire one that was taught everything she needs to know in a previous life and will surprise you by parking herself, bum-down, when she spots a treat in your hand or will walk beautifully to heel whilst you manhandle the buggy.
Of course, everyone has their preferences and I love the new puppy smell as much as the next person, but realistically, it will be older dogs for me from now onward. They are totally worth it.
POSTED BY AMBER