MS, Penny, Ferdinand, And The Benefits Of Adopting Older Pets
This is a very rough week for me. As I write this, my beloved Penny will have passed away nearly a year ago (November, 11th). As I have written previously, she was my number one supporter in my fight against MS. Every day without her is still incredibly hard. There are many articles out there about the benefits of pets for those with chronic illness. However, in honor of my girl, I wanted to discuss the benefits a particular type of pet. No, I’m not talking about a specially trained service animal (which absolutely have their purpose), I’m referring to the many older pets in shelters across the world.
Penny was my everything
Penny was my everything: my best friend, my caretaker, and my daughter. I had always thought that there was no way I could ever get another dog if she passed. The night she left me, I collapsed in the vet’s office in tears. The vet knelt down and put his arm around me to comfort me. As he held me, and began shedding tears of his own, he told me to not let this change me, to not let it harden me, he told me that she would want me to rescue another dog in need. He was right and I took it to heart. A couple weeks later, I rescued Ferdinand from a shelter.
We deserve love
Ferdinand is a twelve year old Dachshund, with only two teeth, a hole in his face, bites taken out of his ears, and exposed sinus cavities in the roof of his mouth. He needs special food, must be fed from a spoon, is not 100% housebroken, and has an extreme fear of and anger towards children of a certain height. He’d had an extremely rough life before I got to him. So why would I take on this kind of pet? Because he deserves love too, and because he’s just like me. My body and condition are no longer the most desirable either. If I were a dog in a shelter, I’d be the least desirable and probably never adopted, just like he was. So I was determined to make it work and make his life better.
Older dogs aren’t necessarily easier. Special care is required and high vet bills can be common place and all of that can lead to a lot of stress. We know what stress can do when mixed with MS. So while I encourage you to think about rescuing an older dog, please keep that in mind.
The advantages of an older pet
There are some amazing benefits for someone with a chronic illness who adopts an older pet rather than a younger one though:
- They often move a bit slower than a younger animal, just like us.
- They can be much more appreciative than a younger animal too.
- Much of the time, they require much less training
- Often they will be more at peace relaxing with you and require less stimulation
- Older pets are often much less destructive than younger ones
- They often require less exercise and even less food
Knowing that you are helping
Probably the biggest benefit though, is that you are helping an older animal live out his golden years in happiness. Knowing that I’m doing that, makes any extra work well worth it to me. It really gives those tasks, like feeding Ferdinand with a spoon, and cleaning up his bathroom mistakes, a good meaning. I’m not far off from needing more help like that too and, in the future, I hope that someone will treat me the same way I treat him. I hope people will realize that I still have purpose, despite being older and having some issues that not everyone else has. I hope people will still value me, despite being an inconvenience at times.
We have both been through a lot
Penny was also an older dog when I got her, just as Ferdinand is. Sometimes I think that she passed so that I might rescue him. I like to think she’s looking over both us and giving a little smile. Like she knew how broken I felt as a person, so she somehow got me together with someone else who seemed broken to others. Ferdinand is a dog, I know, but we definitely have a connection because we’ve both been through some sh*t. We’re both not society’s ideal and that creates a love and companionship that helps get me through the worst of my days. It’s the kind of connection that I just wouldn’t have gotten with a much younger animal. So if you are thinking about an animal companion and you have a chronic illness, please at least consider adopting an older pet.
Thanks for reading!