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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 20-Nov-14 16:19:48

In praise of the older rescue dog

Kate Bendix, ex BBC TV producer, journalist, author and animal lover, is campaigning. For the older rescue dog, that is. She explains why she chose an older dog to share her home and life with, and the benefits of a middle-aged mutt over a bouncy pup.

Kate Bendix

In praise of older rescue dogs

Posted on: Thu 20-Nov-14 16:19:48


Lead photo

Think an old dog can't learn new tricks?

If you're thinking of getting a dog it's hard enough to work out what type or breed might be right for you. But when you add part-time residents into the mix, in the form of grandchildren, even if they are just on 'day release' as my friend calls it, it makes getting the right one even more important. Which is why I want to champion the older rescue dog.

Dogs go into rescue for all sorts of reasons, not just because they were badly treated. Some owners just can't cope - due to illness, redundancy, or because they've had to move and can't take the dog. This happens more often to older dogs, which are always harder to place, who just somewhere nice to live, with lovely people to curl up next to and go for walks with. Any rescue centre worth its salt will only place a dog with a family set up that works for everyone.

As a prime example, last year I adopted a wee stray dog called Nikita. She had mange, tatty fur and no meat on her sad little bones. The vet estimated her age at between 6 and 7. I took my new middle-aged aged friend home and, over the next few months, a feisty yet timid little character emerged. She's now the most spoilt dog in the history of all mutts! She likes her sofa - it was mine - her routine and walks. The cat is still in charge though and I am definitely third in the pecking order in my house. Not that I mind.

She had mange, tatty fur and no meat on her sad little bones. The vet estimated her age at between 6 and 7. I took my new middle-aged aged friend home and, over the next few months, a feisty yet timid little character emerged.

However, my circumstances are similar to that of a grandparent in that I am a middle aged woman who has her small godchildren to come and stay - three and six year old girls, Edie and Iris. Bearing in mind that it quickly became apparent Nikita has been kicked by schoolchildren and avoids them at all costs I can't tell you what a success we've had with all three of them.

Edie, and Iris especially are wary of dogs, and rightly so, and Nikita is nervous around small children, so we introduced them to each other slowly. We made sure they had their own space and that Nikita had a place to get away from it all when she needed to. We told Edie and Iris to ignore Nikita and let her come to them.

Everyone was respected and allowed to occupy a part of the house they felt safe in. We talked to the girls about what Nikita needed (no cuddles, thanks very much!) and explained how a dog says hello "Nikita just licked my knee and sniffed my hand", meaning the stress levels were kept to a minimum. By letting everyone do their 'thing' and behave in their own way, within 24 hours all three of them were sharing a sofa and we could watch Frozen for the umpteenth time with no dramas.

The great thing about Nikita being an older dog is that, like the rest of us, she's been there, done that and is far more relaxed and happy to take a load off than a bouncy, "Hi! I’m Ralph! Whatchya doin’?" puppy. As long as she's got her happy space, a walk and a treat at the end of it, she's willing to snooze through yet another Disney binge.

Kate's book Top Dog: How to Make Your Mutt Marvellous is published by Short Books and is available from Amazon.

By Kate Bendix

Twitter: @MyItchyDog

papaoscar Fri 21-Nov-14 05:55:07

We've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed the companionship of five older rescue dogs over a number of years, and we would not hesitate to recommend them. As we sit here now our latest addition, who choose us four years ago when she was five, is stretched out on the sofa relaxing. She too was very nervous for the first few months, having come from a dog refuge, who told us that she had been over-used for breeding purposes. She still has moments of insecurity, but has turned out to be a lovely companion. She has the choice of three baskets, the sofa and her garden. She sleeps a lot but loves her walks, rides in the car and organising us. We are very lucky to have her, and could write similarly about all our previous rescue dogs.

PRINTMISS Fri 21-Nov-14 14:43:00

How lovely for you papaoscar. We only ever tried a dog once, which was a mistake with two small children and a rather large labrador cross, so we had to give up and be satisfied with cats, gerbils and hamsters. We have a friend who took in a small dog (from a rescue centre) which was almost unrecognisable as such. However, some tlc and love has turned her into a fashion model! - Won a couple of prizes at amateur dog shows, and knows just how precious she is. It is lovely to see her with our friends, but she is still quite nervous.

nightowl Fri 21-Nov-14 15:11:22

I think older people and older dogs are just made for each other. I'm between dogs at the moment - not sure for how long - but my next dog will definitely be a rescue and maybe from an 'oldie' rescue centre. For anyone interested, check them out online, they break your heart.

apricot Fri 21-Nov-14 20:13:47

I've had an older rescue who came with all the issues which had landed him in the dogs' home and it took a year to civilise him.
I'd rather have a pure-bred than a mongrel so I recently adopted a 7 year old ex-breeding bitch from Many Tears Rescue.I expected a terrified dog in poor condition who had never been in a house. What I've got is the most adorable, well-behaved, happy little dog who just wants a lap and love.

Joplin Sun 23-Nov-14 01:30:05

I adopted a very old, blind, miniature Poodle a year ago, from BlindDogRescueUK ( a site well worth looking at ). He was found in the middle of a road in Romania, & had completely given up on life. Very matted, gaping wounds to the bone & unrecognisable as a Poodle. He was brought over in a van with 60 other dogs, rescued before the DogCatchers slaughtered them. They took 2 days to arrive & I met the van in London before taking him to my home in the country. He had to have 12 teeth removed, which had obviously caused him a lot of pain, & is now a different dog. Almost like a puppy, so happy & devoted & doesn't want to let me out of his "sight". He quickly mapped out the house & the garden & I make sure everything remains in the same place.
An older dog is a wonderful companion - mine thanks me everyday with little kisses & really seems to appreciate every little thing I do for him.

glammanana Sun 23-Nov-14 10:46:16

What lovely stories about giving our older friends a second chance of a loving home.
We have always adopted and fostered older dogs over the years,no fostering now as we only live in a small apartment we are now the lucky owners of Poppy a Lhasa Aspo who was left alone in a house when her 80yr old owner died they where on their own for 5 days before being found,Pops had never been socialised or taken for walks and I don't think she had ever had a bath or been groomed that is all changed now and she is a happy little dog who has made friends with everyone locally.
Older dogs are so grateful for that second chance and are well worth considering when you are looking for a companion.

whenim64 Sun 23-Nov-14 11:24:49

The oldest dog I took in was 12 - a blue roan cocker spaniel who was full of lumps and bumps, one of which turned out to be cancerous. Our lovely vet said he'd charge me for the first few lumps he removed (he stopped counting after 10), but would sort them all out as a goodwill gesture because this old dog was being given a chance of a happy retirement. He looked like a war refugee when I picked him up from the vets - I'd only had him living with me for a few days and he'd had his testicles removed, been shaved and stitched up all over his head and body, and one of his long ears was strapped to his head with a bright red crepe bandage! My neighbours asked if he'd been in a road accident. Three months on and he transformed into the beautiful, healthy dog he was meant to be. He would potter round the house and garden and snooze in the sunshine or park himself on the sofa (the only dog who ever got away with that!) He lived for another 18 months and was such a nice, gentle dog who would follow my toddler grandson round and share his basket with him as long as they were together. It's sad to know they won't have many years with you, but so worthwhile.

grandma1949 Mon 24-Nov-14 16:52:30

I have recently discovered a wonderful British couple, living in France, who rescue much older dogs. At the time I discovered them they had 37. I follow their ups and downs via their website and are so full of admiration of their kindness and dedication to their "puddings". I think they can be found at Twilight - the retirement home for dogs. It must be a real struggle at times, raising the funds to treat these wonderful animals when they are poorly and in their last days. Thank goodness there are wonderful people like these. :-)

anniezzz09 Mon 24-Nov-14 18:22:41

We lost our second older rescue dog last year. She was the most gorgeous and biddable Border Terrier who had clearly been beaten badly before she came to us. She was with us six years and she was a delight.

Before her we took on two dogs of indeterminate age. Poor old Ben died within a couple of months of a nasty tumour in his throat. Holly, his companion, a collie cross lived with us for five years and she was lovely and great fun.

Ben and Holly had both also clearly lived in a home where raised voices meant run and hide. And that's the only thing I'd say about rescue dogs and why I am reluctant to take another on. Dogs are creatures of heart, they are so loving and they have long memories. They bring a lot of baggage and if they are older then the pain of losing them occurs more often than if you take a dog on as a puppy.

Maybe we will rehome another rescue dog but I'm still not over Pearl, the border terrier who died suddenly of a stroke (she had to be put down). All praise to those who do rehome though and I so wish we could stop people buying dogs when they obviously don't know enough about owning and caring for them and they don't understand that 'a dog is not just for Christmas'.

agile75 Sun 30-Nov-14 18:43:48

It seems like I have always had a dog, in the 60s I had a dog called ringo who never had a collar or a lead, he would just come and go as he pleased usullly following the kids around.
since ringo,there was Muxer ,Bonnie,And now Sandy, all mongrels. well I wouldnt have anything else.
Bonnie had to be put down last June,she must have been 17 years old and it nearly broke my heart. I had to get one of my G/ds to take her to the Vets for me.The same G/d got me a rescue dog called Sandy, a small 11 year old Mongrel who became homeless after her previous owner died leaving a note asking for his dog to be looked after,
Sandy sleeps on my bed, follows me everywhere and I would not be without her

ButterySmudge Thu 04-Dec-14 18:38:10

I wonder if any of you kind dog lovers could help - I'm currently trying to find a middle aged dog for my parents who are in their early 70s.
I live away from them and they could do with the companionship: they owned and adored a labrador retriever throughout my childhood who was a dog for the disabled, as my mum has MS and is now bedbound.
I've been to lots and lots of shelters but they mostly insist on all members of the family coming to the shelter to be met and spoken to- fine in principle but unhappily impossible in my mum's condition.
We've registered for retired guide dogs; police dogs, and other service animals but they are few and far between, for reasons I understand.
We're in the west Midlands and I'm after a calm, well trained companion for my parents and an older dog (that still has a good few years of life left) would be ideal.
Does anyone know of anywhere I can approach, given the circumstances? Thank you smile

granjura Thu 04-Dec-14 18:45:47

How kind of you to want to find a companion for them.

However, I am concerned on several levels. Firstly, is it their wish to get a dog- or yours? Secondly, if your mum is in poor health- who will take the dog out for proper, regular walks? And thirdly, and mainly- even an older dog may live for many, many years- so would happen to the dog should your parents become too frail to keep a dog, or pass away? We are much younger, and our 2 double rescue (eg abandonned, rescued, given away due to circumstances and then adopted by us) are both 15- and we would not consider taking on another dog or dogs without absolutely ensuring that we would have certain adoptive homes just in case anything happened to them. Have you discussed this thoroughly with them?

Blueflowers Sat 06-Dec-14 08:37:17

Gryhounds make wonderful pets especially for older people they are calm gentle very affectionate and contrary to what you may think do not need a great deal of exercise and are the original couch potatoes
We had a beautiful black boy and owning one was a revelation h had never been in a domestic home before but he soon became used to home comforts
and there are so many of these beautiful dogs needing homes