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Tell me about adopting an older/special needs dog


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Went to the local Petsmart to get a new dog gate today.

 

A local rescue was holding an adoption event.

 

There were two BC's.

 

The one that grabbed my attention was a meek, sweet old girl, lying in her crate, resting her chin on her paws. When I got down to greet her, I noticed she was grey-muzzled, with little nubs of teeth, and missing her right eye. When she walks, gets up/down, her right hip/hind leg seem stiff too...makes me wonder if the leg and the eye got injured at the same time. The rescue tells me she and her "brother" (don't know if they were actual packmates or just owned by the same sorry human) had been abandoned on a farm with some horses. Her brother had been adopted, but Sasha has been hanging out with the rescue since April. Oh, and she is de-barked. (No, don't start me on who debarks a one-eyed dog...not sure if the vet could tell she had been surgically debarked, or perhaps if her loss of bark was part of whatever caused her to lose her eye and get a lame-ish leg). She is a good weight, heartworm negative, spayed, UTD on vaccines and routine care. The rescue says they think she's about 10. (My old Orlando went on to his glory at 14...and he was in waaaaaay better shape, dentition...so not sure is she's 10/rode hard/put away wet or more like 14+, honestly. Her canines are just tiny nubs.) She walks on a leash nicely, looked calmly at, then ignored, all the chaos of your average Sat. at Petsmart (dogs, puppies, people, kids, shopping carts, incl all the freaking out some of the other rescue dogs and shopping dogs were doing). DH and I had some time, so hung out and gave her some love. Her approved adoptive family called to change their mind due to a family member just receiving cancer dx., so she needs a place.

 

I know she'd likely only be with us a short time, given her age.

 

I'd love to hear pros/cons of bringing dog #3 into a home that already has a BC, a mutt, and a feline Director of Human Resources. (Cat is old, very dog-loving, bombproof.)

 

She seems to manage the one-eyed thing well. Her hearing seems ok. Rescue says she's good with dogs/cats/kids.

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We've now adopted/purchased four different dogs on the downhill side of prime, let us say.

 

Ten isn't ancient for a Border Collie by any means. Not in reasonably good health.

 

She sounds like either a car chaser or a cattle working dog. Given the circumstances she could have been both. Working cattle ages a dog fast (or rather, it can).

 

The teeth can be from fetching or carrying dirty tennis balls, or ditto rocks, or from being forced to eat kibble off gravelly ground.

 

Of my four oldsters I took on, only one gave me heartache and medical bills. But I took his case on eyes wide open. He was confiscated from a dog fighting place, with severe trauma and tick disease.

 

The one gave me almost five years of herding fun and learning. He passed away almost in a single day from a massive series of strokes.

 

Gus and Cord show little signs of slowing at nearly twelve and nearly thirteen. Neither have ever been to the vet outside of annual checkups.

 

I've been blessed though. I know you can go a dog's whole life then spend thousands the last hour. But it's that way no matter what age you get a dog. ;)

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I never thought myself an "old dog" type person. The whole lifespan thing, limits in certain activities, etc. But several years ago I took in a dog that was, best we could figure, 13 plus.

Her eyes are cloudy, her teeth non existent. Her hearing is totally going and getting up is slow. But all things mentioned above make it possible for all of us, mostly the cats, to live with her. I can only imagine what a pistol she was when younger. She still gives us a run for our money. Daily. Going strong, never misses it when someone has any food and demands hers (the nose works 100%). Knows that for the most part she gets away with anything if she just gives me those looks.

I would not want to have missed one single day with her and there is not one day that I don't laugh out loud, chuckle at her antics or regret my decision of taking her in.

So much so, that I am currently fostering another senior that is quickly becoming dangerously close to my heart.

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Thanks for spending some time with Sasha today. She sounds like a great older gal, and I'm so glad the rescue has her in its care.

 

I've had two experiences adopting senior BCs with some special needs/limitations: one 9ish, HW+, later diagnosed with diabetes insipidus; the other 12 and with too many health and behavioral issues to go into at the moment. ;) Long story short, I would adopt another senior dog in a heartbeat as long as I felt emotionally and financially prepared for the road ahead.

 

Johnson, the 9-year-old at adoption, had 4.5 years with us, and Ody, the 12-year-old, is still trucking along 2.5 years post-adoption. Ody's health issues have been at a "management" stage since we met him, so that has been a mental adjustment for us to make. But Sasha also sounds in much better shape then he was.

 

If you felt a connection to Sasha and think she would fit into your household, I encourage you to continue the conversation with the rescue and see what happens. I look forward to reading other folks' perspectives, too.

 

[i wouldn't put too much stock in the shape of her teeth, btw. Johnson's were nubs (some of them broken, others just worn down) when we met him. I think tooth condition is, especially in outdoor dogs, largely related to environment. ETA: I see Rebecca already addressed this point while I was typing.]

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Thank you for the perspectives! :)

 

Our old dog went deaf as he aged, but his verbal commands already had hand signals, so we just had to make sure he could see us....but have never had a sight impaired dog. Sasha ran into my leg once while we were walking around the Petsmart (I think I stopped/changed course slightly on her blind side), but she seems not to be bothered by whatever her world looks like thru one eye.

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My old gal has lots of age relayed clouding and what appears to be either an old injury or ulcer on one rye, ain't slowing her down though. In all fairness though, she does not ever spend a second outside of the yard unsupervised and I have had to log plenty of steps in hot persuit as she can slip out of the yard door much faster than anyone else!

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I have adopters who adopt nothing from me but old and/or special needs dogs. They get immense joy from giving these guys some golden years - they must, as they keep doing it :)

 

And of course there was Sport -16.5 when abandoned at the SPCA. I took him into rescue and put him into a palliative care foster home ... he was almost 19 when he finally died.

 

And if you want to read more about adopting old dogs, read the SAINTS blog. They rescue nothing but senior and special needs animals. Amazing place.

 

RDM

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I have not adopted senior dogs, but I have had them (still do). As for the teeth, my 11-year-old has nubs for canines and had them when I got her at age 3, so nubs in and of themselves don't indicate age. In Kat's case, I think she chewed on chain/chani link because she's thunderphobic (I think she was kept kenneled or chained and reacted to thunder by chewing...).

 

Anyway, old dogs will break your heart, but they will also provide you with immeasurable joy. They can be exasperating at times (just old dog stuff), but they also exude sweetness that just melts you, and of course the exasperations will also make you laugh.

 

If you think you have space in your heart and your home for an oldster, I say go for it. The joy you bring the dog and the dog brings you will make up for the short time you will likely have together.

 

J.

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I've never adopted an older border collie, but my Papillon was 11 when I adopted him. He's now 17. His foster mom explained that often the old ones come into rescue and then often times they can't adopt them out. He (Zippy) wasn't the dog I was looking for at that time, but I was so happy to be able to give him a home in his "golden years". Zippy doesn't see well, and is more or less deaf as a post.

 

There are some things I take into consideration - helping him to find me by getting into his line of sight, using hand motions (in retrospect I should have TAUGHT him hand motions before he lost his hearing). I have started making sure I turn the lights on as we go to bed so he follows me without running into the walls. I am careful to try to keep the border collies from trampling him - and I think that were he border collie sized they would still run into him.

 

I don't regret adopting him specifically, and I don't regret adopting an older dog.

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One old dog tip: old necks ache a lot. And many time we don't have the time for a geriatric dog to remember where the door is, so we urge them by the collar.

 

Now I wear a short show-type cotton slip collar around my own neck all day (yup, I've gone emo; I'm wearing a black dog collar). I have three in their teens and one twelve with fairly bad arthritis, so now instead of nagging or dragging, I just ask once then attach the collar.

 

All of them, once in "I'm on a leash" mode, seem to snap out of geriatric fog and enjoy their brief "walk." LOL! They always get a treat for going outside, whether leashed or not, just as if they were puppies.

 

For things that are difficult, I treat them like pups. We are back to house training with Maggie and Cord both. Stairs are hard (the porch is being rebuilt in about six weeks).

 

Puppies need very simple stimulation and so do oldsters. Both Cord and Maggie get their meals in puzzle toys and very tough raw bones (both of them are power chewers).

 

Cord gets round pen time with the Pollys every day the weather and my brain cooperates. Maggie hikes with me down to the creek.

 

Lots of brushing and combing, and massaging the skin and muscles, particularly the top hindquarters. It gets hard to self groom these areas as they get older. Unless your dog has a fourteen inch long Alice Cooper tongue like Cord.

 

Weekly baths with very dilute puppy shampoo help too, with lots and lots of time just running the warm water and massaging. :) Maggie likes to stand and get slurped by the shop vac. I doubt this is normal.

 

I'm really into this new agey mind/body connection as you can tell. ;)

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I also have never adopted an older dog, but wanted to say our late border collie went fully blind in one eye at least 2 years before he died. It was a slow process but it never seemed to effect him. He also went deaf during the same period and we were able to communicate through hand signals, and the lack of sight did not seem to be a problem.

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Hopefully, Jo (Jo & Tex) will pop in - she has Loki, a deaf BC, Tex, a blind BC, and I think Annie is her geriatric BC. I know they all have their issues, but I've seen them all and they live surprisingly good lives. They don't seem to know they are special needs dogs :)

I know with Zachary, I do treat him more like a puppy at times - he can't walk down stairs, I have gates so he can fall down them, he needs to go out almost as soon as he has eaten and he has issues at night which tend to make my sleep more erratic than it already is! But for all the years he has given me without issues...I don't mind helping him through his senior years.

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We took in an older dog (through these Boards in fact). We had her a year before cancer took her from us. She was the skinniest dog I'd ever seen, was missing half her nose and had nubs for teeth. She was a terrible poop-eater (truly, TERRIBLE). And she was sweet as the summer day is long, charmed every person she met, was the least complicated border collie I've met. She taught us how to make that difficult decision when the time came.

 

We brought her into a house with six other dogs. It was all fine. I still miss her now several years later.

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I've never had an old dog. My oldest is currently 5. But I do have a blind dog, and I wouldn't let the visual impairment worry you. Most can never tell that my guy is blind, he gets around so well. He doesn't run into things unless I move things around on him. He learns a new environment the first time he is there and remembers it every time we go back. He does need a little extra patience in unfamiliar places and guiding around obstacles. I imagine with one functional eye, Sasha would need a lot less of that type of special treatment.

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I keep coming to this thread hoping to read about her fantastic homecoming and gotcha day.

 

Ah, not quite yet, Kelleybean!

 

Want to be sure we're well prepared before taking the three-dog-household plunge.

 

Making sure we're in a good place, as we were not *looking* for dog #3...but I know sometimes circumstances find us instead of the other way round.

 

Took DD up to Petsmart the next day to meet her, but missed the group's visit by an hour, so we'll go again this weekend.

 

And, I think I mentioned here over in Coffee Break when it first happened, our 16 yr old son developed a (probably) staph osteomyelitis in his spine back in Nov. Rotten things those single celled organisms...the initial month of IV vancomycin did not get it all, and it returned in an additional vertebra in January. Much of our life has been driven by our son's health in the last 6 mos...it is both a reason we're considering Sasha and a reason to make sure we're all set before acting... We have a second-look neurosurgery consult coming up next week. If all is well, we'd be in an okay spot for dog #3, but I count no chickens before hatching anymore...

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Very best wishes for your son. You're so wise to give his health situation full credit for how hugely significant it is in terms of family time and focus, and not rush things. Sasha might be a wonderful addition to your family, and I do hope it works out that she joins up, if the time is right for you.

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I hope things go well for you and that you can adopt that lovely old dog. She needs you.

 

I've had Tex since he was 5 and he will be 12 next October. He has been completely blind since he was 5 months old. He is a holy terror still and shows no sign of slowing down. I rattle a leash or a food pan and he's on his feet in a flash. He doesn't walk fast but he can go all day.

 

Annie just turned 14 this month. She is the second senior with no where to go that I've adopted from our rescue. Annie has arthritis and some nerve degeneration in her spine. She cannot stand for any length of time but once she is moving, she can trot along quite well. I dont think she knows where her hind legs are anymore and she falls down a lot. We definitely are having some challenges with her pain management and her appetite is lousy.

But...she is a cuddlebug and her eyes are so full of love when she gets attention. Annie worships Sticks. Say the word Stick or better yet, give her a Stick and she's thrilled. She cant chase them anymore but she still gets her daily Stick.

 

I plan to continue adopting seniors as they come into my life. I know I can give an old border collie what it needs to be happy for however long they are with me.

 

I almost forgot to mention Skip, my bc with only one eye. The loss of vision didnt slow him down at all. He had a whole boatload of anxiety issues to keep him busy instead. He died suddenly last summer and I believe the eye problem was related to a suspected brain tumour or trama. He was stray from the pound so I'll never really know. Skip was a grand all round good farm dog.

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Hey, thanks for the good wishes, all! :)

 

We have all our fingers, toes, and paws crossed here for some good news. Fortunate to be local to the fantastic pediatric care at Cincinnati Children's, without which, I have no doubt, the story would be more unhappy than it is. I say grateful prayers every night for the ER attending on that night who, in well-considered disagreement with the two orthopedic surgeons who saw DS, went with her gut that something wasn't quite right and insisted on an urgent MRI. She most likely saved his life and/or his motor function. We're to see an adult neurosurgeon coming up; since vertebral osteo tends to be a dx. of adults, the pediatric folks have seen very few cases. If anyone has to clean out and reconstruct my kid's spine, I don't want him to be an n-value of 1.

 

Still, even with all the rotten parts of the last 6 mos, it's given us a chance to re-evaluate what's important and what is not, and make sure that the bucket of "happy" is always kept as full as it can be at our house. As long as we're sure we could hold up our end of the deal, giving Sasha a good home seems like it would add to the happiness.

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...even with all the rotten parts of the last 6 mos, it's given us a chance to re-evaluate what's important and what is not, and make sure that the bucket of "happy" is always kept as full as it can be at our house. As long as we're sure we could hold up our end of the deal, giving Sasha a good home seems like it would add to the happiness.

What an awesome post, in so many ways. Sending all possible good mojo from California!

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