When Kate Esser decided to get a companion for her dog, she thought an older friend would be a better fit than an overactive puppy.
Ms Esser adopted Nellie, a wirehaired terrier, and began what has become somewhat of a mission to give elderly canines a loving home for the last years of their lives.
“For me an old dog starts at seven years old,” she said.
Since adopting Nellie is 2008, Ms Esser has given a home to five older rescue dogs, her latest adoptee being a white and tan Staffordshire jack russell called Dorothy.
“Dorothy is nearly 13 and extremely relaxed about things. She’s incredibly patient,” Ms Esser said.
Older dogs can often be overlooked in rescue shelters, with people assuming they have been given up due to problem behaviour or just preferring the cuteness of a young puppy.
“Often old dogs are in a pound because their owners have died or gone into care,” Ms Esser said.
“Usually within a couple of weeks I can see what their idiosyncrasies are.
“Dogs are like people — every dog is different and within a couple of weeks you understand what the dog is like and what their needs are.”
Tips for adopting an older dog
- First make sure you have time for a dog. Puppies and older dogs need exercise and interaction each day.
- As dogs get older, trips to the vet can increase. Can you afford to look after an older dog if it needs medication or operations?
- Some older dogs may have bad habits they formed with their previous owner. You will need patience and time to retrain them.
- If you already have pets you will need to know how that older dog behaves around other animals.
Teaching old dogs new tricks
Ms Esser said she had learned that older dogs found it easier to adapt to their new home compared with puppies.
“They’re incredibly easy to train as they just want to please,” Ms Esser said.
“My one message is you can teach an old dog new tricks — many, many new tricks.”
While an older dog may be easier to train and less hassle than an energetic puppy, there is the downside that the death of an old dog comes much sooner.
“You know that upfront,” Ms Esser said.
“You accept it, you have a cry and you reflect on how happy you made them and how good the end of their life was.”
Ms Esser said though she cried at the death of each of her old pals, she still got more from having them in her life.
“I probably get more out of it than the old dogs.”