Now that your parents are empty nesters, they are likely feeling the absence of you kids no longer living there. More important, the identity they shared of two people raising smaller people is no more, so who are they now? According to the Mayo Clinic, it is very common for your parents to start to feel a bit out of sorts, even sad and lonely.
After all they have done for you, it's time to help them through this next chapter of their lives. If they're responsive to the idea, might I suggest getting them an older dog? Notice that I didn't say, "a dog," but "an older dog" — and there are many reasons for that.
1. Your parents are done with babies
The next baby your parents want to see is their grandchild, whom they can hand back to you and then go home and watch Stephen Colbert — so the last thing they'll want is a puppy. Puppies are just like babies in that they need constant care, constant feeding, constant cleaning up after and ridiculous amounts of training. Having a puppy is a lot of work. An older dog is likely already trained and well behaved. Older dogs eat on an easier schedule than puppies do, too.
2. Senior dogs are often from good homes
According to The Humane Society and many well-respected dog trainers, senior dogs often end up in shelters because people die unexpectedly and have not designated where their dog should go. Sweet older dogs find themselves in shelters through no fault of their own. They have not misbehaved, they don't chew furniture, nor have they been aggressive. They are simply good boys and girls who no longer have someone to love and care for them. Your loving parents could save their lives by giving them a happy home once again.
3. Like your parents, they are frequently overlooked
Breeders and shelters know that everybody wants puppies and sadly, it's the senior dogs who go unnoticed. This is a phenomenon in our youth-obsessed culture that pertains to people as well as dogs. This is why it's even more important for aging parents to support adopting aging dogs.
4. Older dogs settle in more quickly
Senior dogs are already used to being part of a pack. They know how to behave. They understand what will be expected of them, and they don't need to re-learn commands. They already know "sit," "come" and "no." The basic commands are old news for them — and despite being old dogs, they might even know a few tricks!
5. They prefer a couch to a dog park
Several professional breeders — who know their breeds very well — have told me that many breeds' true personalities do not emerge until the dog is six years old or older. I've even seen this in my own dog. As he's approaching middle age he is getting more mushy, more loving, and more like a couch potato who just wants to sit at my feet and just be. I will still throw a ball for him, but I've noticed his need to chase, chew and play is much less than it was just two years ago.
Older parents who don't have the kind of energy they had when they were younger would prefer a dog whose energy can match theirs.
6. There are no surprises
You'll often hear it said that an older dog is an open book. The dog who shows up the first day for duty is the guy who will always be there for them. Senior dogs aren't still growing and changing, which means you will be able to predict their behavior and their temperament much easier and right away. Living with a predictable dog is very important to aging parents — trust me.
7. The act of getting a senior dog raises your self-worth
There is no question that you become a hero the minute you decide to adopt a senior dog, and doing heroic things can raises your own self-esteem. Whether the dog is from a shelter or a breeder with a breed rescue, you are still saving that dog's life. Every time your parents look into those adorable eyes they will feel good about themselves for bringing this vulnerable creature into their home and creating a loving nurturing environment for him or her.
8. They need something to care for
After about a month of celebrating having the house all to themselves, many parents realize that having something to care for gives them purpose. The act of feeding and walking their senior dog will make them feel not only needed, but also useful.
And having a dog rely on you for its day-to-day care is not the same as raising a child who can talk back and stay out at a friend's house all night without telling you. Instead, that dog will shower them with unconditional love. As a matter of fact, sometimes I'm pretty sure my parents love their dog more than they ever loved me, for these very reasons.
9. The dog will appreciate them more than you ever did
Rescue dogs don't understand why one minute they were in a loving home — and suddenly, they're in a strange place. They just want to go back to being part of a family, part of a pack. Lots of anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs do know when they've been saved. That kind of gratitude will go a long way in helping your new senior dog bond with your parents quickly.
10. They're crazy cute!
This one needs no explanation. It's simply true!
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