Why you should adopt an older dog

November 17, 2015


A puppy’s smushed up face and cartoon eyes might make your ovaries explode, but an older dog can truly make a house a home. As we found out.

November is Senior Dogs Month, but that’s every month at our house, where 10-year-old cocker spaniel Lizzie reigns supreme. And rightly so.

She joined our family almost three years ago, the result of a boring evening, a rainy day and a guilty husband. At the time we were living in a tumbledown villa, complete with leaky roof and unscrupulous landlady (who still owes us Dhs20,000, not that I’m bitter…) but it also had a dog flap, which was begging for a purpose.

One Friday night I was browsing Dubizzle, and saw a post about a cocker spaniel needing a home – she had been taken to a ‘doggie resort’ for boarding, but her owner had called to say he wasn’t coming back for her. Unforgivable.

I called but there was no reply, and woke up thinking about this poor dog, abandoned in a strange place during a thunderstorm. I rang again, and was told that she was called Lizzie, was five years old, and in good health – and that lots of people were interested in her.

Jeans, jumper and boots on, I drove to Ajman in the lashing rain. Lizzie was there with a boisterous bulldog, and was cowering behind a tree, shy and very overweight. She immediately came to me, nuzzling around my knees, and it felt like she chose me.


Lizzie on the day we adopted her, complete with blonde quiff

Next, I had to call my husband, who was working on a Saturday and feeling suitably sheepish about it, which I quickly turned to my advantage. The kennels said they needed half an hour to give her a bath and get her ready, so I headed to a local mall to get cash out for the donation (her owner hadn’t even paid her boarding fees) and call Mr Farmer. I distinctly remember him saying, “If you think we can give her a good home and a better life then go for it”.

Permission granted, I returned to pick her up and buy everything we needed. The kennels passed on her previous owner’s contact details so I could ask him about paperwork and vaccinations (he even delivered her passport to our house – I couldn’t look at him).

That journey home was tough. She shook as I lifted her into the back of the car, and was silent all the way to the vets, despite my constant chattering and singing. Once there, he said she was closer to eight years old, which her passport later confirmed, but was in good health – nothing some eye drops and a diet couldn’t sort. Then it was time to get her settled, and it all fell into place.

As I write this, Lizzie’s whiskery chin is resting on my leg, sweet little snores coming from her soft mouth, stubby tail twitching as she sleeps. And as soon she came home it was like she had relaxed. She gleefully trotted out of the dog flap to the garden, snoozed on her oversized cushion and helped herself to leftovers from the bin (naughty) and loved, and still loves, long walks and swimming in the sea.

As she approaches 11 years old, it’s fair to say Lizzie’s best days are behind her – her eyes are getting cloudy, her back legs are weakening and we’re spending a small fortune on arthritis medication. But I don’t for a day regret adopting an older dog. When I look into those brown eyes it’s pure love that shines back.

There are a huge number of senior dogs needing good homes in Dubai because expats often don’t want the expense of transporting an older animal when they relocate (how you can abandon a family pet is truly beyond me).

Here’s why you should consider a senior…

1. They (usually) don’t need training, so you won’t spend your days wiping up wee, or mourning chewed flip-flops. And they can be taught new tricks. Lizzie can high-five. Oh yes.

2. There’s life in the old dog yet. A senior dog is technically seven years or older, and with many breeds this is relatively young, so you could have years of love and fun with your new addition ahead of you.

3. They don’t require as much exercise. Sure, puppies are adorable, but good grief they have energy. A more mature pooch, however, makes the perfect snuggle buddy on the sofa.

4. You know what you’re getting. With puppies, especially cross-breeds, there’s no guarantees in terms of size or temperament when fully grown, while you get what you see with a senior dog. And if you’re searching for a pedigree chum, then you’re more likely to find a purebreed older dog – without the eye watering price tag of a puppy.

5. It’s your chance to offer an animal happiness in its last few years. No dog deserves to spend his or her last days on the street or in a shelter.

According to her paperwork, we’re Lizzie’s third (and final) family. And, when the time comes to say goodbye, we’ll make sure she has the best day of her life – lots of tummy scratching, a whole cooked chicken to herself and a lovely long sleep on our bed.

For more information, visit Dubai Senior Dogs Project and K9 Friends.

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