I was eating dinner with my fiancé at Outback Steakhouse: I ordered a filet mignon and he ordered a sirloin, both cooked medium. We spent part of our date chatting about our future and dreaming out load about adopting a dog. Curiosity got the best of us and we browsed through Petfinder on our smartphones.
And there it was, an ad for a 9-year-old Puggle named Judd, who was left by his previous owner at PAWS of Coronado, an independent rescue in San Diego County. It was March and Judd had been at the rescue since January.
What baffles me is that Chris and I were not actively looking to adopt a pet at the time, let alone a senior dog. In fact, we have two chunky-brewsters at home, Olive and Max, that are advanced in age and need a lot of care already. There wasn't room for another member of the geezer group, and there popped Judd's photo and it changed everything. I had to meet him.
Before I continue, let's talk about Olive and Max for a moment.
Many of my friends have asked if Olive still lives with me, and the answer is no-ish.
Olive bonded with my mother-in-law over the years and I made the decision to have Olive stay with her instead. Olive is still part of the family, but now gets double the love because I visit several times a week!
As for Chris's dog Max--well, he's the eldest and his health is declining, but he's hanging in there.
The PAWS Coronado family reviewed my adoption application the next morning. Before I could adopt Judd, they advised, I would first have to arrange a meet and greet and undergo an interview and a home inspection. Since Judd is a senior, his adoption fee, which is a donation to the rescue, was $65. Younger dog adoption fees run in the $200 range over there.
On the day of our meet and greet I drove to the rescue and brought Olive along to interact with Judd. They got acquainted and went on a walk near the rescue and seemed comfortable and indifferent toward one another. A great sign.
After our walk we sat down and the team asked a series of questions about my occupation, living situation, and why I wanted to adopt him. Having worked with dogs before, I was familiar with the Puggle's temperament and knew this mixed breed was the right fit for me and my family. His previous owner left little information about him except his recent vaccination history, but one thing was for certain: Judd is house-trained. Another great sign.
The home inspection process was scheduled a few days later and it took thirty-minutes, tops. A few reps from PAWS came in to see if my home was conducive for having a pet. They searched for poisonous plants nearby and asked where Judd would sleep. In addition to scanning the property, they also checked the backyard fences to see if they were tall and sturdy enough so Judd couldn't jump over in case he tried.
Once I passed the home inspection they brought him inside. He ran up and down the stairs and drank some water. My boy is home.
The entire process was seamless and refreshingly uncomplicated. It took 4 days before Judd was dropped off, and since then I learned that the adoption process is not as intimidating as it seems. Don't let the paperwork, interviews and home inspection deter you from moving forward. It's how most rescues operate, and it's all worth it in the end.
Oh and senior dogs are awesome, and here's why:
1) Senior dogs are mellow. Well, most of them. They prefer to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life like sunbathing in the yard or curling up against you on the couch while you watch a movie.
2) They love routine. Creating one helped Judd nestle into his new home. Every morning he howls at the foot of the bed so he can wake me up. When I wake up, he knows it's time to eat breakfast.
3) Many are house trained and great with commands. This could also mean that they're used to certain luxuries, and when Judd first moved in he used to hop on our couches when he wasn't supposed to. He's better about that--well, sort of, but that's only because we let him up now!
4) You always learn something new about their personality. Weeks after his adoption I took Judd to get his photos taken at a professional studio and he had a hard time sitting still due to the excitement of it all. So when the photographer brought out treats to see if he would sit, Judd stood on his hind legs and started spinning instead. Food motivated? You bet.
Over the year I also learned that he's a serial marker, loves apple and pear slices, and howls when he smells food or when he wants to go for a walk. It's endearing, but also a little startling...have you ever heard a Beagle howl before?
5) They still have a lot of love to give. Although some older dogs and cats may require patience to work through their health problems or behavioral issues, don't look at their advanced age as a death sentence. If you provide the care they need they will stick around for a while and show you how grateful they are in their own way.
I can't thank the PAWS Coronado crew enough for their tireless effort to help find forever homes for animals in need. Judd has changed my life, and as cheesy as that sounds, it's true.
Having him around has impacted the way our house operates and how we all look out for each other. He comforts us and he's a great brother to Olive and Max. Most importantly, Judd taught me to slow down and live in the moment. The past is gone and the future is unknown, so all you can do is enjoy what's in front of you.
If you're considering adopting a dog or cat of any age, just know that it's okay to "try before you buy," meaning you should do your research on the breed (or possible breed if unknown), and take the opportunity to meet and greet with them to see if its the right fit for your family.
One of the reasons why people give up their pets is because they can no longer afford to have them, so start saving for those periodic and/or emergency veterinary expenses. Include their food, grooming, and other related expenditures into your monthly budget and see if you can make it happen without overextending yourself.
Also, learn as much information about the dog's medical or personal history as you can. If the shelter or rescue has this information, ask for it so you know what to expect, and you can use this info to make them more comfortable as they transition into their new home.