by Bryana Walters
This week we welcome guest blogger, Bryana Walters. Bryana started working with animals in 2003 and earned her veterinary assistant certificate. She has worked in an animal hospital, an animal shelter and most recently as a professional dog trainer and pet sitter. She has trained dogs for basic commands, behavior modification, aggression, special needs, such as blind dogs, and scent work. She has volunteered in shelters for several years and currently works with Pasado’s Safe Haven animal sanctuary. In November 2014, she became the proud Old Dog Haven Final Refuge foster parent of “Gramma” Rose. Bryana and her husband Jeremy also share their home with their nine year old Border Collie mix Puppy, and two cats Quiggly and Ziggy.
I was 29 years old when I got my first Final Refuge dog from Old Dog Haven.
My husband and I were already pet parents and were ready to add another dog. We thought about adopting a puppy (my husband was really pulling for this one) but I’ve already had three puppies over the course of my life and they are tough! I mean … my puppies have reduced me to tears! I remember getting up with my first puppy in the middle of the night to take him potty so he didn’t poop on the floor (which sometimes he did anyway and I would have to clean it up, in the middle of the night). What I had gained was a baby when I intended to get a dog.
One puppy had, and still has, extreme general anxiety due to genetics. However, there was no way for me to know that and I was shocked by his awful behavior. He chases shadows, so he ate my walls and carpets and floors. He would spin circles and bark, and even bark at my face because he was bored. This happened all the time! Eventually we got him on anxiety medication but even at 10, he is still a bit of a mess.
I got my third puppy from the animal shelter I worked at in Idaho. He came in during a snow storm with his two siblings; they had been dumped outside a feed store. He was skinny and sick, so I brought him home to nurse him back to health. And of course I kept him. Sucker! It took him several months to become potty trained because we had no yard and everything was covered in six feet of snow, which he didn’t like. So, for months I had to clean up messes. I soon realized that the snow had also caused issues with his socialization. It reduced his opportunity to meet other dogs and many people to zero and socialization is crucial! To this day, he can still be reactive around people and dogs. He is a work in progress. No matter how good my intentions were, I still screwed up with all my dogs. No wonder I decided to become a dog trainer; I wanted to do better for my dogs and help others along the way.
With puppies, you never know what you are going to get, even from breeders. Yes that’s right; you can end up with a genetic nightmare with all kinds of health and behavior problems. One rationalization to get a puppy seems to be that if you have had the dog since he was a puppy, the dog will be a perfect dog. (I thought that too and look what happened.) The fact of the matter is that many of us do not have the time or the know-how to train a puppy and deal with behavioral issues that come up. Look, I understand (I’ve been there). Puppies are adorable. But with training and vaccines and spay/neuter and microchips and collars and leashes and crates and toys and food and treats and, and, and… puppies are also expensive! (Another great reason to adopt from a shelter because many of the health-related expenses are already taken care of in the adoption fee.)
After working in shelters for so many years, I came to realize just how many great adult dogs there are that need good homes. The senior dogs would especially pull at my heartstrings; many devoted their whole lives to a family only to be given up when they needed their family the most. While volunteering with the Seattle Animal Shelter I heard about Old Dog Haven for the first time. I went on the Old Dog Haven website and started looking at the profiles and reading about the dogs. I found out that you could be a Final Refuge foster parent. It was perfect! You get to love a dog that needs a home and all of the medical expenses are covered. My first thought was, “Where do I sign up?” The path was clear this time around; I decided to bypass all of that puppy business and get an adult dog. I asked my dog and cats if they would be so kind as to share their home and they agreed. All that remained was to convince my puppy-loving husband. So I told him all about Old Dog Haven and broke it down.
Potty training- Most adult dogs have lived in homes and understand the difference between your favorite rug, and outside. So you don’t have to pick up poop (in the middle of the night even.)
Sleep- I would much rather continue my slumber; I like to sleep, as do most people. Adult dogs don’t cry (in the middle of the night) and also happen to love naps, especially old dogs!
My stuff- I know it’s just stuff, but I would like to keep at least some of it usable. I still have all my walls and carpets left now. Also no more teething, so nothing gets chewed up with an adult dog!
You get what you get- They are the size and shape and temperament they are. They won’t grow any bigger, they have formed their personalities, and their likes and dislikes. It’s really easy to fit an adult dog into a home once you know all that in advance. Once again, with a puppy you never know what you will get.
Social skills and socialization- Many adult dogs have been properly socialized with other pets and people. It’s pretty easy to tell if they are going to react to other dogs on leash, or if they don’t like strangers, or if they don’t like cats. My dog came perfect, and I never got the chance to screw her up!
Cost- Ok, here’s a big one for a lot of people. Money. Adult dogs that are adopted from shelters come spayed/ neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and some of them even trained. All of that saves hundreds of dollars.
Now I had my husband on board with getting an adult dog, but a senior? He did have concerns that the dog wouldn’t live as long but I told him all dogs need homes, and being an animal lover like me (we did meet at an animal shelter), he needed no further explanations. He was concerned about cost because old dogs start having medical issues. The fact that the potentially high medical expenses of caring for a senior dog were covered by Old Dog Haven’s amazing program made him think, “Where do I sign up?”
Gramma Rose joined our family in November of 2014. She is such a wonderful, sweet, kind, goofy, noisy, cuddly, easy, loving girl. I couldn’t ask for a better dog. She loves walks and going anywhere you will take her. She gets along with our dog, our cats (Sometimes it’s fun to chase them, but hey, they run.) other dogs, kids, and people. I love taking her around senior people. She always brightens their day with her gentle ways and her neediness for you to always be touching her. She loves people so much that she gets her feelings hurt if not every single person wants to say hi to her so she can lean on them and have them tell her how pretty she is. She loves running and chasing the Frisbee or ball if our other dog lets her. He’s kind of in charge of the toys (he thinks), but she doesn’t mind; she will just chase him. One of her favorite summer pastimes is chasing bugs. In spite of having a bad eye, she sure can see those little flies, and none of them will get away when Gramma is on duty. She rides so nicely in the car. She is good about getting her eye medicine. She is actually quite low maintenance for a senior. She gets her eye drops, her supplements, her pills and love! Her vets all love her. And most of all, I love her.
When I started going to Old Dog Haven events and our annual picnics for fosters, I realized something: where are all the young people? Did they all decide to get puppies? I know that we have just as much to give. I know that we aren’t all too busy being on social media, partying, and being irresponsible! I know so many of you are just the right person for a dog who is waiting in the shelter for you right now. So if you are young (or old or anything in-between), consider an old dog. Come on young people! I promise you won’t regret it. There’s a lifetime of love you can give and anyone who has rescued an animal knows how much love they give back. Think of all the lives you can touch for years and years to come. I know that I will continue to foster these wonderful souls and give them the kindness, understanding and love they deserve, for the rest of my life. From 29 until forever.