caring for senior animals

Posted: June 8, 2012 at 5:36 am

i have been meaning to write this one for some time..might as well do it now since i got up so early.

while it sounds so wonderfully soft, peaceful and special to give a home to a senior animal..there are a few things to consider…like…ongoing health issues which are likely to get worse…cardiac, kidney, arthritic disease etc…, incontinence, and other disabilities…. hearing, vision and mobility losses….and emotional issues that can go along with continued aging, like anxieties and dementia’s.

not everyone is cut out to take on homeless seniors. the vision of the old dog peacefully finishing off his or her life laying by the fire is quite simply a warm and fuzzy fantasy. seniors are hard work. they do not suddenly become perfectly great dogs just because they got old..if they were jerks when they were younger, you can bet they will still be jerks when they get older..aging does not turn any of us into ancient angels.

but here is the thing about seniors…the older they get, the more vulnerable and frail they become…physically, emotionally and mentally. they absolutely need continuous 24/7 patience and loving support and they need it more and more of it as they continue to age. if we feel frustrated with them and their aging issues…we just mess them up even more.

i remember a little poodle coming in a few years go….i had said yes to her but she ended up with another rescuer closer to home. i got a call a couple of wesks later that she was demented and lost in her head. i believe this was true…change is really hard on the ancients. anyway…she eventually did end up here, it took some time but she settled in well and eventually she found a great home to finish her life in.

getting old sucks for everyone..it is freaking hard…but it is easier if those around us understand this.

the animals who do best are the ones who live in an atmosphere of complete and total acceptence. i have pulled aging foster dogs out of foster homes because as their care needs got greater, the stress levels grew higher. one simply doesn’t know how difficult it can be to care for the aged until one experiences it first hand.

and sometimes, it is too much. too much for the foster family…and consequently too much for the animal..no one is having any fun any more.

what folks do with their own pets that have grown old with them is usually different..there is a shared lifetime of loyalty there..but for the homeless seniors..sometimes that really strong lifelong and committed forever bond…just isn’t there.

this is why it is pretty much just our long term and senior volunteers who foster for saints. by the time they are so in love with an animal here that they really NEED to take them home..that unbreakable bond is already there.

i do have some advice for those considering seniors, either as fosters or adoptive new family members….

1. understand that they will at some point (probably sooner than later) become fully incontinent..peeing and pooping everywhere.

2. understand that as they suffer aging losses of health, cognition, senses and mobility..they are going to depend on you more and more and need more and more care.

3. at some point you are going to be a 24 hour a day nurse in addition to being their pillar of strength and trust AND the provider of their daily love and happiness…it IS a very heavy burden of caregiving to bear.

but aged animals (and humans) are helpless..they are victims of aging bodies and minds over which they have no control and they need someone with them who not only truly cares but who can accept and respect and embrace the aging process and help them to always feel well loved, safe, accepted, valued and special….it truly upsets and hurts them and makes them feel unsafe and unwanted if they suddenly feel like a continual pain in the ass.

not everyone can do this and that is really ok..better to recognise this and stay out of the ancient kitchen then to resent being trapped in there every day.

old animals need to be with people who feel blessed in being on an end of life journey with ancient and totally wrecked beings and in bringing joy and happiness to them every day.

it is never easy, and no one ever gets to be a super hero in the hardwork and heartache of this…but for those who really want to do this, that is ok.

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No Comments on "caring for senior animals"

  • Fiona says

    Well this gave me a good cry this morning. How true this is Carol, caring for the old is not an easy task. I know my old dog needed 24/7 care and got to the point I was worried to leave her alone. It is alot of work and worry but we kept her going with a helping hand, meds and lots of love. For a couple of years both my elderly dogs tied me to the house, no vacations but it was worth it having them around!! I admire you and what you do, it’s not an easy job and thank god someone like you is there for the abandoned, old, wrecked animals.

  • Curt says

    This is a great informative post Carol

  • Colin says

    Hi Carol, boy I sure needed to read this post this week. Our tears are starting to dry and we are celebrating and laughing at the great life we gave our dog Sammy. To have a wonderful vet come to our home and help us let Sam pass in our arms, as hard as it was now feels like the best decision we could have made for him. Our 14 years with him was a wonderful journey and to watch him age these past few years was difficult but also part of that journey. Sammy was held by the only family he ever knew in the end and I know a lot of animals do not have that same luck. I thought of you and how you manage to do this all the time. Not many people would ever take on the task you have. Reading your blog on an almost daily basis made me a better and stronger caregiver to Sammy. As long as you continue to write I will continue to read. Thank you for all you do.

    Colin

  • Maggie says

    If I may add to your post, Carol. It certainly is hard work caring for an elderly animal and you’re right about the need to always be on point to clean up pee and poop, to live on a very short band because of meds schedule or just the need to be around in case of an emergency. But the other side is the love the flows back and forth, the moments when, in my case, Rumple lays his head on my lap or I stretch out on the floor to give him a full body cuddle and he snuggles right in doing his funny snorting noise or Himi and Squeakers waiting for me to come to bed so they can snuggle in, one on each side. Nothing one sided about these relationships nor I suspect most.

  • Carol Ann says

    It is more than ok it is a privilege to have a little old wrecked discarded guy like Eli love me back. I miss his little kisses. RIP little dude. You will never be forgotten.

  • Barb H says

    The first post made me cry, then the comments, bring on the kleenex.

  • Bunny Horne says

    Carol, I tweeted Bif Naked yesterday thanking her for mentioning Saints Rescue and advised the Denman Street Car Free Day – Sunday, June 17th and the Open House, June 23 & 24. Bif Naked retweeted the dates of those events to her multitude of followers. Nicklas Naked, Bif’s dog, tweeted about the events on his own Twitter account.

  • Bunny Horne says

    Bif Naked’s facebook account has SAINTS RESCUE OPEN HOUSE June 23 & 24 as SAVE THE DATE!

  • Maggie says

    Hi Saturday weekend warriors….I have to take Rumple into Eastridge for further tests in the morning which will take a couple of hours. It is not likely I will be up at Saints for my shift.
    Please keep your fingers crossed as things don’t look great.

  • Helga says

    All fingers firmly crossed, Maggie.

  • lynne says

    PRAYING FOR RUMPLE.; HE IS IN THE BEST OF HANDS.

  • Barbara T says

    Carol:
    A truly exceptional post for the Seniors that we care for. I am presently preparing for the passing of one of my own whom I adoptied 6 years ago through rescue. Sassy has cancer in her upper jaw and the end is near. In the last 10 months 2 of my permanent senior fosters have also passed to the Bridge due to their medical conditions. It is very emotional to say goodbye but I always have to remember the true joy that each and every one of the seniors in my care during the past years have given me. They are truly a gift and their time with us is a joy that each of us need to appreciate.

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