Petfinder sent me a poll the other day asking the age range of my four-legged friend (as if I only had one). Since most of my four-leggeds are in their teens, I chose the 7+ yrs option. Petfinder defines animals over the age of 7 as seniors. I define them as in their prime!
Petfinder’s poll respondents so far identify their four-legged friends as 34.87% <1 yr, 44.19% 1-6 yrs, and 20.94% 7+ yrs (senior). I can’t tell you how much that statistic saddens me. Perhaps Petfinder sets the “senior” bar so low because so many folks start dumping their animals around that age when they are no longer youthfully “fun”. What happens to these prematurely “senior” animals then? Are we losing them to broken hearts? Starvation? Predation? Various forms of human disposal (including shelter euthanasia)? Are they just sitting there, stressed and overlooked in shelter cages day after day, week after week, and month after month?
Whatever happened to respecting our elders, much less treasuring their lifetimes of loving devotion? Pet “owners” who routinely discard their aging “property” must not realize what they’re missing. Middle-aged and older animal companions are generally better behaved, less destructive and less demanding than their younger counterparts. Their quiet presence and peaceful demeanor offsets an otherwise hectic human household, providing a balance that benefits everyone.
When I visit a shelter, I always enjoy watching the youngsters bounce and play. But it is in the eyes of the older animals that my soul makes the strongest connections. I can read their lives through their eyes – the hopefulness, the longing, the silliness, the sadness, the strength, the fear, the love, the abandonment. It’s all there – the complexity of their lives, experiences, and spirits – in their eyes.
If you are considering sharing the love and spirit of this holiday season with a new four-legged family member, look into the eyes of a mature animal. You may find family there.