As Adopt A Greyhound Month comes to a close, Adopt A Senior Month is just getting started. May is designated as Adopt A Senior Month to promote adoption of Greyhounds who are a little older. This doesn’t make them any less lovable, however. Today, I have a few things for you to consider about senior hounds.
There are a variety of reasons that senior Greyhounds wind up looking for homes. Some have been brood mamas or stud dogs and have been on the farm following their racing careers. Others find themselves homeless because of family circumstances beyond their control. The saddest cases to me are those who are returned simply because they are old and their families don’t want to deal with the difficulties that can come along with getting a bit long in the tooth.
Whatever the reason, senior dogs looking for a home have it tough. Many people want younger dogs that can be more active with them, or they fear getting attached only to lose the dog as soon as they do. However, I feel that everyone should experience life with a senior dog for a variety of reasons.
Our first experience, as adults anyway, was the divine lady Lilac. We took her in as a foster in January and when May came around, we still had her. Nobody was interested because of her age. She’d raced briefly, but went on to be a brood mama to two litters of puppies. At seven and a half years old, she retired and made her way to Illinois. I am fairly certain that she never looked back to Kansas once she left. The night the hauler came in, she was the only senior on board. I was actually supposed to foster her daughter, which is a story for another day, but someone else was interested in fostering her with intent to adopt. The coordinator asked me which one I wanted to take home to foster instead and I said these fateful words. “I’ll take the little old lady dog. She’s waited a long time for a soft place to rest her bones.” When I opened her crate door to get her out, she did something that no other dog has done to me before or since. She wrapped her head around my neck and squeezed me with her neck and chest. People who saw it told me she’d stay at my house, but I laughed and said “No, she’s just foster number eighteen.” Ah, how naive I was back then.
Lilac moved into our house and proceeded to make herself right at home. As the weeks and then months went by without even a single inquiry on adopting her, she was completely unconcerned. In her mind, she’d already come home. It just took time to convince the humans that she was home. I looked at her and saw this elderly dog who just needed a home for the last few years of her life. The joke was on me yet again, because Lilac loved the retired life with us so much that she went on to live more than half her life with us. She was over sixteen years old when she died.
Long time readers of the blog know that Lilac was a unique soul who lived every minute of life to the fullest. She was sassy, determined and bossy. I laughed more over many of her antics than I knew was possible. She taught me more than I can begin to say about living life to the fullest. She was never a spectator on the sidelines, she got out and played the game on her terms. And the flip side of that is that she never held back about expressing her love for us. That neck hug of hers was her trademark. She didn’t use it to manipulate us, although she certainly could have. It was reserved for showing us the depth of her feelings for us.
Old age isn’t for sissies, but Lilac never let it get the better of her. Before we took her to Greyhounds in Gettysburg, I went all out to make her a special cart so she could ride around and be included without having to walk as her back end was getting weaker. She showed me what she thought of it by jumping out of the cart, gashing her leg and nearly giving me heart failure. I cried for a good half hour after it happened, but Lilac had no intention of being pulled around. When we went to Gettysburg, the old lady walked the whole length of the vendor area under her own steam, proud as you please. She scoffed at a couple of dogs we saw in carts.
She was famous for barking at us to move her fan for her just right, burping in our faces after dinner to send her compliments to the chef and her midnight ramblings. She hated riding in the car, but went on a couple of long trips with us anyway. No matter what I did, she always got the last word in, and I can honestly say to you now that I’m glad. Losing her was incredibly sad, but I have never, ever regretted sharing the journey with her.
Senior dogs have an incredible well of love to share and I’ve never talked to someone who adopted a senior who said they regretted it. We have had dogs who became seniors as they lived with us, and I love that part of the journey, too, but there is something indescribably sweet about the love and affection senior dogs give you when you adopt them in their older years. If you have room in your heart and home, adopting a senior can be one of the most rewarding things you will do. I learned a great deal about patience, courage, compassion, love and aging from Lilac. Adopting her made me a better person and it’s an experience that I would love for others to experience.