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Seniors and Dogs

My husband and I have had cats over 40 years and that last one died in February at the age of 20. Now we’d like to get a dog. This way we can take them with us when we go out for a walk or in the car. Are seniors and dogs a good idea? Can seniors make a good dog owner?

I’ve been investigating the Maltese Rescue organizations to see what’s available. According to books, which I’ve taken from the library, this breed is supposedly the best for the fewest health problems. I keep on hearing – get a puppy, get an older dog.


Dear J.A.

Can seniors make good dog owners? Can Charlie Sheen party? Seniors are no different then anyone else looking to buy a dog, so go for it. We all need to find a dog breed that matches our lifestyle. You probably should stay away from high energy working breeds as a lot of them are like Charlie without the drugs and women. In other words, if you don’t have the lifestyle to party at their level they can be hard to live with.

In spite of the fact that they want one and would immensely benefit with a proper match, some seniors don’t get dogs simply because they worry if their health failed or worse, what would happen to the dog? I’m not a senior but I am on my own and if something happened to me what would happen to Odie, my two-year-old Belgian Malinois workaholic, never stops moving, hyper, maniac canine companion? Simple – unbeknownst to her, I’ve left him to my ex-wife. Okay – not really, but your letter got me to realize for his sake, I should plan ahead.

As to the books you’ve been reading. Breed specific books are generally full of well meaning lies. Almost every one I’ve read exaggerated strengths and minimized or didn’t mention down sides. Their authors are generally as about objective as a mother writing about her newborn. I assure you, whatever book you read that said “this breed is supposedly the best with the fewest health problems”, is flat out lying. I’m not saying breed-wise it’s better or worse. I’m saying all breeds are at the mercy of those that breed them and last I checked Maltese breeders were pumping out just as many ill bred, poorly socialized puppies as any other.

If you go to a breeder, find a good one. Easier said then done. Contact me and I’ll give you some tips. You’re going to be surprised how hard it is to find a good breeder let alone a great breeder.

I’ve found that breed specific rescues are a great place to start as they generally provide the best and the most honest assessment of a breed’s strengths and weaknesses. They can not only tell you whether the breed of choice is right for you, they generally move heaven and earth to make sure they find the right match for you. They also generally know what breeders to stay away from.

One last thing, not always, but often, dogs that find themselves in rescues are like a lot of people looking for a new relationship – they have some sort of unknown or unmentioned baggage. Some baggage we can deal with, some we can’t. Hopefully you find a rescue that assesses their dogs carefully before they place them so they can find a dog with baggage you can deal with.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade
[email protected]

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