Jeannie Fisher of Milagro Senior Pet Refuge on Why Senior Animals Make Great Pets and Need Loving Homes Too.
April 24, 2014 | furtheloveofpets
Photos courtesy of Milagro Senior Pet Refuge
By Darryle Royal
Adopting a senior pet can be a great idea for some families or individuals, as they tend to require far less time and training, and for people looking to avoid the puppy or kitten phase where you lose sleep (just like with infants) and can’t turn your back without something being destroyed, senior pets are the perfect match.
Many times people are so intent on adopting puppies and kittens, not necessarily realizing all that is in store for them once they bring the pet home. Puppies under two or sometimes even older require a lot of time, energy, and training. Not everybody has the time for that, which is perfectly understandable.
But many pets who have done nothing wrong, besides grow up, find themselves the losing end of getting someone to adopt them. Senior pets are just as loving and loyal, and offer pet owners many benefits.
Although it’s true that as pets age they may require more patience and health care, the benefit you will receive from adopting one will far outweigh the potential work or burden.
Fur the Love of Pets spoke with Jeannie Fisher, the founder and CEO of Phoenix-based Milagro Senior Pet Refuge, who echoed the aforementioned sentiment, and offers her tips and advice on what you should know if you’re looking to adopt or possibly considering surrendering your senior pet.
Fur the Love of Pets: What are the biggest obstacles senior animals face in finding adopters?
Jeannie Fisher: I would say first the competition ― who can resist a little puppy or kitten? They’re just so much more fun, right? And a very close second place no doubt is the higher cost of care for senior pets. Now that their bodies are aging, senior pets need more care and veterinary attention; and that can translate into a significant investment of time and money that pet owners don’t always look ahead and foresee. The pet also will need more of your understanding and patience, which not everyone feels able and/or willing to give. So people tend to pass over the seniors at shelters, which is very sad, because seniors really are not much more work than adolescent pets. Seniors are already leash-trained, house-trained, litterbox trained, spayed/neutered, they’re out of the destructive chewing stage, and they make very few demands on you compared to adolescent pets. Most times they’re happy with just a soft bed and to know you’re close by keeping watch.
FLP: What are the main reasons senior pets find themselves in shelters?
JF: Again, the aging process brings changes in pets that oftentimes owners didn’t anticipate and just aren’t willing or able to accommodate. Understandably, cleaning up messes when a senior pet becomes incontinent isn’t any fun. But remember ― this is a labor of love. You committed to this pet the day you adopted him. You don’t discard him when it’s no longer convenient or as much fun for you ― any more than you would discard an aging parent or disabled adult child. The real test of a pet owner’s love and devotion comes when you are asked to step up and give more of yourself to ensure your pet’s wellbeing and continue to keep him safe and sound at home with you ― where he knows he’s safe, and surrounded by the people he loves and trusts. This is the circle of life ― we all help each other along the way. But many people opt instead to walk away, which is horribly tragic.
FLP: What are the pros and cons of adopting a senior pet?
JF: I can tell you without hesitation that adopting a senior pet will change you from the inside out. Your heart will never be the same. The downside, obviously, is in knowing that this wonderful new relationship will be limited by time, and you will feel robbed for awhile when you do eventually lose the pet to old age. But the peace you will get from knowing that you reached outside yourself and gave comfort and kindness to a poor lost old soul ― when it needed you most ― will be profound and you will carry that with you forever. This is God’s greatest gift, that we share a part of ourselves to lift up, to encourage, to protect, and to care for a life less fortunate than our own.
FLP: What tips or advice would you give to someone considering adopting a senior pet?
JF: Plan ahead. Be sure to commit the time and finances to be able to give a senior the best possible life he could hope to find. To adopt a senior and then not give him good food, good veterinary care, or the simple gift of your time and affection, would do him more harm than good. Do some research ― look online at various pet rescues for advice. Some may subsidize your costs for fostering a senior under their organization. Others will afford you an annual tax deduction for your out-of-pocket costs. I invite you to read “The Power Of Life And Love” on Milagro’s blog.This will encourage you as you consider adopting a senior pet.
FLP: What would your advise be to someone considering surrendering their senior pet?
JF: Take a moment to remind yourself why you chose this pet way back in the beginning, when the pet was young. He is still that same pet today, and together you have a loving history. That’s not something to be discarded. Remember that you are the person this pet looks to for love and safekeeping. You are the one he knows and trusts – you are the one who holds his heart. To walk away from your pet at this point in his life when he needs you most would be the end of his world. His body is failing him, and he’s trying to figure out how to live with blindness, or deafness, or arthritis, etc., and is most likely already a little fearful because of it. He would never be able to understand if you were to walk away from him now. Again, do some research. Some veterinarians will defer some of their costs to folks with senior pets ― it only takes a few phone calls to find one. And, as I mentioned above, some rescue organizations may subsidize the costs for care and food for a senior if you foster under their organization. Others will afford you an annual tax deduction for your out-of-pocket costs.
FLP: Is there anything else you’d like to mention regarding senior pet issues?
JF: If you’re considering rescuing a senior pet, definitely go into it with your heart and mind on board for a “labor of love.” You will come out on the other side a much better person. Never begrudge your little one when you find yourself cleaning up messes more frequently, or when he can’t keep up anymore on your daily walks, or if he wakes you in the night because he’s confused and can’t find his way to the dog door. The infinite reward will be in the gift you give to this precious animal in his most vulnerable time. There are many online resources that can give you guidance and support to help you make your pet’s twilight years full of happiness, peace, and love … for you and him both.
For more information on Milagro, please visit Milagro’s website. If you are unable to adopt, you can still make a difference. Donations are tax-deductible and gratefully accepted, no matter the amount. Donate at our website: www.milagropets.org.
All photos are courtesy of Jeannie Fisher/Milagro Senior Pet Refuge, and feature pets for whom Fisher has found forever homes.