I have written this love letter to you a thousand times in my head. I thought it was time to commit it to paper.
I can remember the first time I saw you. I wasn’t looking to adopt a kitty; I was volunteering at the SPCA Dartmouth Shelter. You were one of twenty cats hoping to be adopted that day. You were a tiny girl, laying at the back of your kennel and easy to miss among the sea of people. The card on your kennel said you were 12 years old. I watched you grow sad as people passed you by and headed over to see much younger cats and kittens. Your soulful amber eyes shone with the wisdom that comes from a life of hardship. To me Gracie, you were the prettiest girl in the room.
I loved you from the moment I saw you. When I learned your story, I loved you even more. Your previous owners decided they didn’t want you any longer and abandoned you out into the cold. You would have died but for a kind lady who spotted you and brought you inside to safety and warmth. You were in bad shape health-wise and had likely been stray for some time. She took you to the SPCA where you received much-needed medical care – due to a bad diet, all your teeth were removed and you were given antibiotics for severe respiratory and ear infections.
I remember bending down to pet your soft head and telling you everything would be alright; that you would never be rejected or unloved for even a second, ever again. I scooped you up and we headed to your forever home.
The fact that you were 12 years old didn’t matter to me. It’s the quality of life that’s important, not the quantity. You know that Mom’s heart has always gone out to older homeless animals. It’s so much harder for them to understand why they ended up in a shelter through no fault of their own. And like you, Gracie, senior pets are often overlooked for being ‘too old’. Yet older pets have so much love to give; so many good times still ahead. Mom showed you photos of your fur-brothers and sisters – all seniors when I adopted them – Katie, Harley, Maddie and Tarko. They’ve since crossed the Rainbow Bridge but they all lived their best life when they were here.
Our first few weeks together were filled with much newness. As you began to realize that you were truly ‘home,’ your personality began to shine. I rejoiced in your happiness as you discovered how much fun it was to chase toy mice through your ‘Crazy Pants.’ And who said you can’t teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks? You proved them wrong Gracie as you became a whiz at floor hockey, whether shooting the puck or defending the goal. You also busted the myth that senior pets won’t bond with people so late in life. You’re always there at the door to greet Mom when I come home and you love to sit on my lap to watch tv. You’re a real snuggle-bug in bed and your gentle morning kisses wake me up better than any alarm clock! How I’ve loved seeing you become a thriving happy cat Gracie.
Gracie, thank you for proving that love is ageless. You ask for so little and give so much. I don’t know whether we’ll have lots more years together or just a few. I do know that you remind me to live in the moment and to value the unconditional love and laughter we share. I promise to be by your side as we move through life and when it’s finally time for you to cross the Rainbow Bridge, I will once again bend down to pet your soft head and tell you everything will be alright; that your brothers and sisters will be there to welcome you; that I will love you always because you have left your pawprints on my heart.
There are lots of terrific older pets just like Gracie that deserve loving families. Check out the SPCA Adoptables and visit one of our shelters to meet the amazing seniors looking for their forever homes. One of these special souls may just be perfect for you! Meantime, here are some great reasons to adopt a senior pet.
- Many older pets find themselves in shelters through no fault of their own. Death of a guardian or move to a personal care home, loss of a job, divorce, allergies, relocation, and other life changes can result in owners surrendering their pet. Sadly, some pets are simply abandoned and others are rescued from cruel situations.
- With an older pet, ‘what you see is what you get’. Kittens and puppies are undeniably cute, but they’re still growing and developing personalities. Older pets are full-size and their personalities and temperaments have already developed, so you’ll know if they are a good fit for your family. Many older pets actually blossom once they feel safe and comfortable in their new home. And remember, kittens and puppies don’t stay little very long.
- Older pets have good manners. Most older pets are already housebroken and litter-trained, saving you the time and energy needed to teach a kitten or puppy bathroom etiquette, not to mention cleaning up little ‘surprises’. Kittens and puppies are full of energy and often get into mischief when they’re bored. While older cats still like to play and older dogs still enjoy a daily walk, they are often content to just chill out and relax in your company.
- You can teach an old dog (or cat) new tricks. Older pets are just as smart as younger ones and have a greater attention span than kittens and puppies. Dogs can be trained at any age and older dogs have likely mastered basic commands. Older cats can be trained with patience, practice, and rewards.
- Older pets make great companions for seniors. Due to their lower energy level, older pets are easier to care for. Many elderly people find comfort in the calm presence of a companion who is content to move through life at a slower speed.
- Most older pets have many years of life and love left to give. Many cats live into their late teens or early twenties. Dogs live 10-15 years on average and many can live longer depending on breed. For those reluctant to adopt an older pet because the possibility of a painful loss seems closer, remember that life offers no guarantees. Quality time together means so much more than quantity.
- Older pets have a level of gratitude and loyalty that’s unmatched. They seem to sense that they’ve been given a second chance at happiness. In return for a furever home, you will be the lucky recipient of love as unconditional as it is enduring.