Lanterns: Adopting A Senior Pet


Adopting A Senior Pet

My husband, Bill, formerly worked at a Senior Living facility. A couple there could no longer care for their Pomeranian, Chi Chi. He was 11, and would likely be euthanized if taken to the SPCA. They called asking for Bill’s help. I’d never met Chi Chi, but I couldn’t allow a perfectly healthy dog to be put down before his time. We thought we were taking him for a short while, to live out his life comfortably. Imagine our surprise when he turned 19 years old this fall! 

It is my great hope that our story will persuade folks to adopt older dogs. Initially, we were concerned, knowing the heartbreak of losing a pet and the likelihood that we would be going through it before long. I couldn’t have foreseen, however, the fantastic rewards we experienced in our 8 years with the fluffy boy we came to call “Little Man.” 

His only master was my husband, Bill, upon whom he heaped kisses and love. The same did not hold true for me; instead, I felt he toyed with me. Cheech followed me everywhere I went. If I went to the bathroom, he came too. He wouldn’t go to sleep unless I was in bed; on nights I wanted to stay up longer, I usually ended up going to bed to keep him quiet — he would bark for me to go to the bedroom, and I didn’t want to wake Bill. He fancied himself my protector, always positioning himself between me and anyone else. Last year, I had a heart attack, and Bill had to pick him up and hold him; he wasn’t planning to let the paramedics near me. He was the Sheriff in these parts.

Cheech didn’t want me to pick him up or even pet him. He happily took food or treats from me, but none of that mushy stuff. It took a while for me to understand our relationship. In his mind, he was definitely working, and I was his charge. I longed to shower him with hugs and kisses, but that was not going to happen. I often told Bill I’d have to wait until he died to love him up properly. 

The evening Bill brought him home for the first time, he marched in the house and promptly lifted his leg to mark his territory. He was accustomed to being the only pet, and the three others annoyed him. They sniffed him. They looked at his food, and tried to be his friend. Such a bother! He often chased our other fur-kids for getting close. He made us laugh with his antics. 

Yes, he was our adorable old curmudgeon—  a little guy with a big personality. It didn’t take long to be madly in love with the fluffy tyrant. He was like the Energizer Bunny. He’d have a bad day or senior moment, and before long, he’d come flying by chasing a cat. As years went by, we joked he might outlive us all.

Previously, I’d only adopted puppies and kittens, but adopting a senior is different. When raising an animal, we learn their personality while the youngster develops. We can train away behaviors and create a perfect pet. When adopting a senior, that whole process has already happened.

He was a terrific pet. He did not have accidents, in fact, he’d hold it until he was sick. Afterward, he was humiliated and would hide. He’d been abused prior to living with the elderly couple, and we suspected he’d been harshly punished for infractions. He was food aggressive, and even though he was my protector, he would bite if I crossed the line. We saw the influence of abuse early and often. We were determined he would experience only unconditional love, comfort, and peace in our home. Rather than retrain, we adjusted our lives, making room for his quirks.

Watching the dynamic between our four animals was both intriguing and fun to watch. Little Man considered himself “in charge,” and the others mostly let him believe it. Before long, the cats realized he was content with chasing, and wouldn't bite. Miss Boo tormented him regularly for fun. She would put her nose up to his while he slept — scaring the wits out of him when he awoke.

Gray Kitty is a lover, and Cheech wouldn’t tolerate her rubs. Non-confrontational, she’d bend as she walked by, like she was rubbing him, only about a foot away.

Cassie, our cockapoo, though 3-4 times Little Man’s size, is a lover, not a fighter. Try as he might to antagonize, she would lick him. She easily thwarted his attacks, holding him off with one paw, and we could practically see the steam pouring from his ears. It was all rather hilarious.

Little Man was a great communicator and left no doubt what he desired. His bed was necessary wherever we were. If we were in the kitchen, it should be in the kitchen. In the living room, it was by the coffee table, and at night, next to my side of the bed. If he wasn’t getting what he wanted, nobody else did either. He’d look at us and bark. He went through a phase when he scratched my legs when he wanted milk. At his age, if he wanted milk, he got it. He begged at every meal time. His previous owners spoiled him, and we happily maintained his lifestyle.

Sunday, he passed away peacefully in Bill’s arms, his favorite place. I finally held him, loving him as I had always wanted. We are sad and grieving our loss. We knew it was coming; it was hard watching him waste away, but he didn’t seem to be experiencing any pain. He had started having problems with incontinence, and occasionally had trouble standing on his skinny legs. He’d been sleeping almost around the clock, and his bones protruded from under his skin. It was time. 

In my mind’s eye, I visualize him with our previous dogs and cats, running through the Elysium fields with his big smile, enjoying the sun on his back and the wind blowing through his fur. We miss him terribly, and our home will feel emptier for a long while. In time, only good memories will remain. 

He was a special boy, blessing us with tremendous joy. We’re so very grateful for the time we shared with our Little Man. He enjoyed a good life with us and was well-loved. Though we weren’t his pet parents from the beginning, we loved him a lifetime's worth.


Written by Julie Custer

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