Ways to support senior dogs
I say this without exaggeration — senior dogs are PRECIOUS! And if you can, you should undoubtedly adopt one and give yourself a chance to experience their love. However, adoption is not the only way to support senior dogs. If you care for the welfare of geriatric rescued dogs, here are a few things that you can do:
Adoption is probably the most straightforward way to support a senior dog. It is immensely gratifying when you see their personalities come out and when they become a part of your family.
Senior dogs are among the most overlooked groups of dogs at a shelter. Many people think of them as a lot of effort with no returns for a short period. I mean, if you’re thinking of a potential family member in terms of ROI, best not to add one, maybe?
Another narrative around senior dog adoptions is that of pity, which is also untrue. I like to think of senior dog adoptions as a fast-forward life with your dog. They learn more quickly, love more intensely, and yes, your time with them is short, but you condense all your effort into that time and make the most of it. The only ROI here is love.
To adopt a senior dog, contact your local shelter or rescuers. I’ll follow this blog with a list of animal welfare organisations and individuals.
If you’re not ready to adopt yet but can open up your home temporarily to dogs, please consider fostering dogs, especially seniors. Senior dogs are susceptible to contracting infections at a shelter, which, at their age, can be very difficult to recover from. Many rescuers try to place them in foster homes before admitting them to the shelter, so they can receive individual attention in a comparatively safer environment.
Fosters for senior dogs may need to take them for vet visits or administer medicines regularly. Senior dogs may also need to be on specific diets and may require special care. You can discuss all of these aspects with the rescuer before you agree to foster the dog. If you believe you have the bandwidth to care for a senior dog, you can sign up as a foster for such dogs while signing up with your local shelter.
Please keep in mind that fostering is not a ‘trial run’ to see whether you can handle a dog or not. Yes, it will give you insights into the kind of pet parent you will be, but it is a huge responsibility, and you have to do right by the dog.
Rainbow bridge homes
Many senior dogs are abandoned and rescued in a state from which they recover and go on to live fulfilling lives. However, some seniors (and younger dogs too, especially irresponsibly bred ones) do not get the luxury of time. In such cases, where the vet doesn’t advise euthanasia but puts a definite number on how long the rescued dog has, the shelter may post an appeal for a Rainbow bridge home.
A rainbow bridge home brings home the dog only to keep them comfortable in their last weeks/months. The dogs are fed a good diet, given holistic care, and supported in any other way that makes their time on earth comfortable. Signing up as a rainbow bridge foster/ adopter is a huge ask and is emotionally taxing. Rescuers and adopters do this with only one goal — to ensure that when their time comes, the dog passes on with dignity, knowing they were loved and surrounded by people who care.
I first came across this term on Sanjana Madappa’s Instagram page. Sanjana works in rescue, rehabilitation and operations at CUPA’s Second Chance Adoption Centre. We adopted June from there through her.
You can sign up as a rainbow bridge home with your local shelter or respond to an appeal sent out by them.
Passive adoption/ Sponsor/ Donate
For some reason, if you cannot bring a dog home, temporarily or permanently, you can consider passively adopting a senior at a shelter. Passive adoptions dedicate the care of the adopted dog to you while the dog remains at the shelter. You get regular updates on the dog you have passively adopted, and you get to go and meet them from time to time. The shelter sends you a certificate of passive adoption too. If you don’t have a local shelter, you can passively adopt a dog at any shelter!
Sponsoring can be done for a day, week, month or more. You can pay for the medical bills of a particular dog, or a meal for all the dogs, etc. You may not be as closely related to an individual dog as a passive adopter, but sponsoring can help care for many more dogs. Furthermore, you can do it per the shelter’s requirement when you have the funds.
Donations are more general than sponsoring. You can donate to a shelter for senior care or any other cause (even without a cause). Like sponsorship, this can be a one-time thing when you have the funds.
If you cannot bring a dog home and don’t have funds for donation, see if you can volunteer at your local shelter. Most shelters will be happy to have an extra person on board. It’s a fantastic way for students to get involved in rescue work.
Volunteering with a shelter will allow you to see the world of animal welfare from the inside (you’ll probably never take it for granted afterwards). You’ll also learn how to interact with and care for animals of various temperaments. Of course, you won’t be handling their most volatile cases from the start. Your responsibilities will probably involve paperwork, photography, social media, and other passive aspects of the shelter; you’ll learn by observing others.
Volunteering is a beneficial thing for both you and the shelter. You get a mentor(s) in the field of animal welfare and get to learn in the environment. The shelter folks get people to handle the non-animal aspects, freeing them up for more cases and hands-on work.
You can also support senior dogs indirectly by sharing their adoption/ fundraising appeals over social media. This is a great way to get involved when you cannot bring a dog home and do not have funds for donations or time to volunteer. Please do not underestimate the impact of a single share. Social media is a widespread means of communication for both young and old people. A single shared post reaches many, who then share it in their circles, and so on. You never know when a dog may get adopted/ sponsored because you cared enough to share their appeal.
If you cannot visit the shelter in person, you can assist the team in running campaigns. You can make posters for the shelter’s offline events and volunteer to design and write for them. Since animal welfare is demanding and situations may arise/ evolve rapidly, many rescuers post on social media on the fly. So while you may not be able to design and develop everything, they may rope you in for planned posts.
Senior rescued dogs are awesome, and yes, age is a privilege. But you do not have to limit yourself to only adopting a dog to support them. Under the wrong circumstances, even a successful adoption can be difficult for you, the dog in question, and the rescuer. If you do not feel ready to adopt, evaluate your situation and explore other options. Senior dogs often end up at shelters after seeing the worst that people have to offer. If you set out to do right by them, it counts, no matter the means.