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The Journals are the premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and advertising in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Oct 29, 2019

Second Chances: It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again

By Diane L. Grigg

Imagine being cold, lonely, hungry and scared. Visualize possibly not hearing or seeing well, feeling disoriented, shivering from fear and anxiety in a situation beyond your control, wandering aimlessly in the street or huddled in a cage in an unfamiliar place, taken from a warm home and dumped. That is the plight of thousands of animals who have defied the odds and become “seniors,” passing the mark of cuteness of puppy or kittenhood, past the teenage years and heading into the golden years. To some people, once their companion is finished with the cuteness stage and now may require more attention and medical care, they choose to discard them, like yesterday’s trash. Animals become homeless when their human companion dies and other family members either cannot or will not take them, or when moving to another location does not allow for pets.

We live in a disposable society. When an object no longer serves a purpose, it is thrown out, making way for something newer, shinier and up to date. Unfortunately, this also applies to our pets. For whatever reason, whether it be economics or lack of ethics, our senior friends are being abandoned either on the street or at the local shelter when they are deemed a burden and too much to care for. Yes, an older animal requires more care and attention. Yes, one might have to make lifestyle modifications in order to bring a better quality of life to their elderly companion. The benefits of either continuing care for your senior pet or finding one to adopt far outweighs the negatives.

As the month of November is upon us, we start thinking of cooler days, colorful leaves and families gathering together – and most importantly, gratefulness. Adopting a senior companion is one of the most heartwarming gestures one can do. It’s an expression of true compassion and humanity. These animals represent a hidden treasure: the purest form of love and indebtedness. Not long ago, a dog or cat was considered a senior when they reached the age of 7. Now those parameters have broadened as the advancement of better nutrition and medicine has given us our best friends for much longer. How an animal ages depends on multiple factors, including size, breed, environment and genetics.

It is tough to compete with the appeal of a puppy or kitten, but there are significant advantages to adopting a senior animal. They are quiet, calm, mostly housebroken and litter box trained, with a gentle, grateful spirit that can’t be ignored. Many are good with children, though the age of those in the household must be considered. Most understand simple commands and, for dogs, are already leashed-trained. There may be a few rough patches while they adjust, but you really can teach an old dog or cat new tricks. With time and patience, adopting a senior best friend will bring about a mutually interchangeable contentedness.

Once the decision has been made to adopt a senior, there are considerations and preparations. Older animals may have special medical needs. Like their senior human counterparts, they develop heart, kidney, liver and thyroid issues. Diabetes is more prevalent in older animals, as well as arthritis and joint problems. Eyesight and hearing can be diminished. It is imperative that older pets keep their weight down, so proper nutrition is a must. Many foods now are formulated with the senior animal in mind. Gentle daily exercise keeps them trim and happy, in addition to maintaining adequate blood flow and retention of muscle mass. Mental stimulation in the form of enrichment is equally important. This might simply mean using age-appropriate toys and positive interaction. Do not let these conditions discourage you from adoption. These senior pets have a lot of life left in them.

 

8-year-old Millah was recently adopted from the Associated Humane Society of Tinton Falls. Although this sweet pup suffers from arthritis and a heart murmur, she enjoys chasing frogs during the summer, flopping on the floor to greet friends, belly rubs and going on adventures with her owner, Lindsay.

As our best friends are living longer, healthier lives, there are a few things we can do to modify their environment. Potentially dangerous floors can be covered with nonskid carpets. Litter boxes need to have lower sides, enabling senior cats to not have to resort to relieving themselves in unsuitable places. Ramps can make life much easier for your senior friend. Use them for the car, the bed, the couch – any place you allow your companion to be. Baby gates, placed strategically around the house, keep them safe. Soft, orthopedic bedding keeps joints fluid. Equally important is regular veterinary care.

Senior animals wait patiently in noisy crowded shelters, looking for a friendly glance, a gentle touch, a soft voice that tells them it will be OK. They sneak into our hearts quietly. Sometimes we don’t even know we are learning to be gentler, to make better choices, to learn to give more of ourselves, to love more and worry less, to be our better selves. So reach out and give them a second glance, a second chance. It’s never too late to begin again.