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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!

Devin

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • DVORA
    2 years ago

    OH DEVIN — MY HEART ACHES AS YOU SPEAK OF PENNY AND THE PAIN OF HER LOSS —
    I AM SO HAPPY THAT YOU CHOSE TO ADOPT FERDINAND EVEN WITH ALL HIS CHALLENGES —
    I WENT THROUGH 15 YEARS AGO , LOSING A DOG THAT I DEARLY LOVED – AND LIKE YOU , ALSO THOUGHT I COULD NEVER LOVE ANOTHER DOG –

    I KNOW G-D SENT ME ROSIE — BECAUSE I WAS SURE NOT LOOKING — BASICALLY I ADOPTED HER PRIVATELY BECAUSE SHE WAS NOT WELL CARED FOR AND I WAS GOING TO GET HER BETTER AND FIND A GOOD HOME .

    IN THE LONG PROCESS OF “GETTING HER BETTER” YOU KNOW WE FELL IN LOVE – JUST WAS MEANT TO BE —

    DEVIN – I HAVE BEEN CONTINUING TO READ HERE AND YOUR POSTS ARE SO RELATABLE TO ME THAT I FEEL AS IF I KNOW YOU — FOR REAL —

    I CAME HERE BECAUSE MY OLDEST CHILD DIED OF RENAL CANCER —

    I HAVE NEVER CRIED SINCE THE DAY HE PASSED —
    THIS FRIGHTENED ME — FEELS LIKE MY HEART AND SOUL ARE VERY BROKEN —

    I WANTED TO WRITE HERE AND THIS IS HOW LONG IT HAS TAKEN TO GET THE COURAGE — I HOPE IT IS OK —

    NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN I CAN WRITE NO MORE — I THANK YOU FROM ALL OF MY HEART —
    YOUR POSTS ALWAYS SEEM TO POP UP RIGHT WHEN I NEED THEM MOST —

    MAY G-D BLESS YOU EACH MOMENT OF YOUR LIFE — YOU HAVE COMFORTED SO MANY PEOPLE — I WISH YOU ONLY GOOD THINGS IN THE NEW YEAR SOON TO COME — SHALOM (PEACE) FROM DVORA

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you DVORA, I very much appreciate that, and I am sorry for your loss as well.

  • Loopyone
    2 years ago

    I have enjoyed reading all the heartwarming stories about dogs. My current dog is a 25 pound “miniature” poodle (although he’s not very miniature). We think he is about 14. We have had him 10 years and he was a rescue. We love him so much and he has brought so much joy and so many laughs to us. I dread the day when he must go. I would certainly consider adopting another adult dog one day.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Loopyone! I’ve been enjoying hearing about everyone’s pets as well, it’s so heartwarming!

  • SuzyF.
    2 years ago

    Dearest Devin, I share your pain as your grieve at Penny’s loss. It has been only 4 (short?) months since our beloved Brandee, a chow-golden mix with MANY health issues also passed on to the next life. She was really a “trooper” until the very end watching that day as my husband performed his usual last minute tasks before leaving for work. We knew she was going to leave us soon and had a vet appointment 2 days later to hasten the process and “end her suffering.” I prayed she wouldn’t go when he was gone and my prayer was answered when she kissed him goodbye one “last” time and silently left us. He took an audible gasp and broke out into sobs.

    What I want to assure you is that you may look forward to a time when you and Penny will be reunited. You see, my mother, when she was in the final stages of breast cancer saw (in addition to her grandparents and others) the beloved dog of her childhood. she said, “Oh, Sandy’s here.” ( My sister’s name is Sandy), so I responded, “Yes, mom. She’s right over here, ” to which she responded, “No, Sandy Doughnut Tail”, as they called her dog for obvious reasons.

    So I guess it IS true that “All good dogs go to Heaven”. How grateful I am for that insight. Just wanted you to know….

  • DVORA
    2 years ago

    YOU ARE RIGHT — ALL — DOGS GO TO HEAVEN — I HOPE YOUR HEART — AND THE HEARTS OF ALL OF US WHO HAVE LOST OUR BELOVED COMPANIONS HEAL AND WE REMEMBER TO SAY THANK YOU FOR SHARING THEM —

    MAY YOU BE BLESSED — DVORA

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you SuzyF., your words are very comforting!

  • Sharelo
    2 years ago

    Great article, and spot on! My family consists of my husband (disabled from Polymyositis); myself (working full-time and managing MS); our 15 year old son; and a lazy 6 year old beagle mix.

    This summer, I got the idea that I wanted a “footy” dog. My husband reluctantly agreed but suggested we look in to a senior dog. His thought was that we could enjoy one for the years that our son is still at home but probably not have the care of 2 dogs for many years after he’s gone and it’s down to the 2 of us.

    We did some looking and found a senior dog rescue in the Pittsburgh area who had just renewed a 13 year old Lhasa Apso. She’s stone deaf, mostly blind, doesn’t bark, housebroken, and has no teeth….and she’s the sweetest old dog you’d ever want to meet. She cuddles on our laps or at our feet at day and night. She is perfect.

    And we feel so good about making Baby happy and comfortable for her golden years.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Sharelo! It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to give them happiness in their golden years. I hope as I age, that someone will return that kindness to us.

  • RuthGeller
    2 years ago

    Hi Devin – I agree that adopting an older or rescue dog is the way to go. And because I too have been there, I totally share your pain in losing your beloved Penny. Your advice to all of us is meaningful and powerful. My take on being helped as I become overwhelmed by the issues of aging and/or the severity of other health problems is a little different. I hope that someone will treat me as well as my dogs have treated me (and I’ve had four). They knew and always made it clear to me that I had purpose; that I was unique; that I was so special; despite being ravaged by MS; despite the encroaching limitations of aging. It’s amazing to all of us that your dog is probably the only being that will love you totally and unconditionally and will be there for you whenever needed. Let’s hope that us humans can live up to that measure. Thanks for sharing with us. Always learn a lot from your articles. Ruth

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks you so much Ruth! Life would be so much more tolerable, if people were able to love as honestly and as unconditionally as dogs do.

  • Polifax
    2 years ago

    Devin. I’m so sorry to hear about your Penny and good on you for your care of Ferdinand.
    I am not sure if i would take on the responsibility of another dog when we lose ours. But you have made many good points for adopting an older one.

    We brought home our dog York as an 8 week puppy in 2010 about a year before the MS became disabling. He is a pure bred border collie and frankly I fear I have ruined him. He should be very active, herding animals, agility trials ect. Instead he has been home taking care of me which is rather boring. I can’t really walk him, and he has become overprotective. However he is the most affectionate and devoted “person” in my life. ( and I’m married w 2 children though adults now).

    He is not impressed with how many people I used to manage at work, or how many things I could multitask. He didn’t value me for any attractiveness or abilities. He is only interested in me, just as I am, right at this moment hopefully loving on and feeding him.

    I think a dogs love is most honest.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Polifax! I 100% agree, a dogs love is most definitely the most honest! I’m sure York loves taking care of you and finds that every bit as great as anything else he’d be doing. Dogs can sense that we are ill and they take their duty of looking after us very seriously. It gives them a purpose, just as they give us one!

  • Polifax
    2 years ago

    Thanks Devin that is a really nice way to look at it.

  • tfs
    2 years ago

    Devon: Nice to hear from you again. This is a great topic for November – the moodiest of months. I have been looking at older rescues myself, and I must agree with MArroyo that some of the descriptions sound just like me. You had me at quiet, short walks and naps a lot! Anyway, it’s fun looking. I am a bit le lazy and need the right fit to be sure.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you tfs! That’s exactly how I’ve felt with my past few rescues, the older ones just seem a lot like me. It’s really helped make a connection with them!

  • MArroyo
    2 years ago

    Devin, I always enjoy your articles. I too have MS and adopted a rescue dog about a year ago. Tippy was advertised as an “older” dog (even though she is just 3-4 years old according to my vet). Her adoption listing said that she is quiet, loves taking short walks and car rides, and naps a lot. Heck, she sounded a lot like ME! A perfect match. Such a joy to have a loving companion to take care of, as others often have to help me.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you MArroyo! Being able to care for a companion, the same way others care for us is so extremely helpful to our state of mind, at least, it is with mine! Like I pay it forward, so I feel a little less guilty!

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