Last week at our local shelter, I met Patsy. She is a friendly, three-year old spayed cocker spaniel mix and we hung out together for a few hours while I was doing paperwork. Although she may not know it, Patsy is a living example of a fear many older people have about getting a dog: she outlived her owner. Patsy is currently a shelter resident because her owner died.
Older people are often some of the most caring and thoughtful dog owners, yet many are worried about getting a pet because they are afraid the animal will outlive them. They worry that after they are gone, their beloved pet will end up at the shelter like Patsy. But many shelters have policies in place that give dogs like Patsy a good chance at adoption. Because Patsy is a young dog, she can happily adjust to a new home and enjoy the remainder of her life.
It’s well documented that pets can improve human health. In fact, elderly pet owners don’t experience as much psychological distress or go to the doctor as often as those without pets. Professional journals are filled with articles recording the beneficial effects of pets. On any given day many wonderful dogs and cats are available for adoption at the shelter. They don’t care how old you are. Denying yourself the pleasure of pet ownership just because of your age is bad for them and bad for you.