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Pets column: Senior pets are never too old for love

When Patrick arrived at the shelter as a stray, staff knew right away that it might be a while before he found an adopter who was interested in giving him a loving home.

When Patrick arrived at the shelter as a stray, staff knew right away that it might be a while before he found an adopter who was interested in giving him a loving home.

While this adorable little shepherd/ basset hound mix was fun-loving and friendly, it was also evident that he was getting up in years and, typically, senior animals spend more time in the shelter before being adopted.

Hopeful that he would find a great home, shelter staff performed the usual routine of exam, vaccinations, and microchipping to prepare him for adoption. As an added bonus, Patrick received a full dental scale and polish so he could greet visitors with a sparkling, healthy smile. He was given a clean kennel where he could await adoption in comfort and safety.

Senior animals like Patrick enter shelters every day. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked by adopters who pass them over in favor of kittens, puppies or younger adults. This may happen for a variety of reasons. Some people believe that a young animal would integrate more smoothly with other pets in the household or that an animal must be young to be trained in a particular way. Others hesitate at the thought of providing special medical care or are afraid to get too attached to an animal that is closer to the end of its life than its beginning.

But, unlike Patrick's coat, these assumptions aren't black and white.

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It is important to remember that no one can predict the future: Any pet could experience life-changing issues at any time, regardless of its age. Also keep in mind that individual personality determines compatibility with pets: An active, playful kitten might actually be a bad match for an adult cat who would rather not be bothered. And, contrary to popular belief, you actually can teach an old dog new tricks.

A senior pet could be a great match for a first-time pet owner. Most times, what you see is what you get: Their personalities are established and you can be sure to find the pet that is the best fit for you.

While energy levels vary, senior animals typically don't need as much exercise as their younger counterparts. If you have a busy schedule and can't commit to potty training or an intensive walking regimen, a senior can be a great fit.

Of course, there are special considerations when inviting a senior pet into your life. Establish a relationship with your veterinarian to find a health plan that works for you and your new companion. Depending on the pet, it may be necessary to place ramps or floor grips in your home to help them get around, and supplements can help manage age-related issues such as arthritis.

Above all, when adding a four-legged friend to your family, it is vital to find the pet that is right for you. Just don't discount that sweet older pet who comes with plenty of life experience.

Patrick's lucky day came during the 2013 Adopt-a-thon when Jason Hann walked through the door. Jason was looking for a companion for his older basset hound and thought Patrick might be the right fit. One hour of paperwork and doggie introductions later, Patrick was trotting out the shelter door, ready to enjoy life with his new family.

Amy Miller is the marketing and communications manager for Animal Allies Humane Society. She lives in Duluth with her husband and three adopted pets: dogs Maverick and Goose, and a cat named Buddy Love.

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