In Englewood, Florida 81 year old Ward Twining was feeling the loss of his companion chihuahua to cancer. As many of us do, he felt it was time to take another pet into his heart, so he applied to adopt two 11 month old chihuahuas from a local rescue. The dogs were ready to go, and so was Twining- until the rescue learned of his age. He was informed that the rescue did not adopt young animals to older people, and that was that.
I’m admittedly torn on this issue. On the one hand, rescues invest considerable resources into their work and have the right to refuse to adopt an animal to a person for any reason. Sure, there’s a chance he might fall ill or need to give up the pets in the future. On the other hand, age as the single determining factor in whether one should be allowed to adopt a certain pet seems arbitrary.
Is the man in good health? Is he mobile and able to care for the dogs? Does he have the finances to take care of them? I would say the risk of adopting to an older person is no greater than adopting to a young, childless couple who may very well decide to start a family in 2 years and dump the dog. It’s life, unfortunately. It would be great if every prospective adoptive family was a work-from-home wealthy homeowning couple who loved to hike, cook for their dog, and promise upon pain of death that circumstances will never ever change. But that’s not the way it works.
I would venture from my own experience that there is no better place to be as a dog than owned by a retiree. You are pretty much their whole world. You are often the main source of companionship for these people. Some of my very favorite clients were older retired folks who would show up TO THE DAY every 6 months for a wellness exam, never miss a single vaccine, and sooner go hungry themselves than let their pet want for food. There is a level of commitment there that I do not see as much with those young uns in their 20s and 30s.
I couldn’t help but think of my grandfather when I read this story and feel a twinge of sadness. His best friend, his constant companion, my grandmother, passed away this year. Since that time, he has become a recluse, allowing only one or two people to see him. I picture him sitting by himself in the velour chair where I used to recline with him as a child, looking out the window, waiting for his turn to join his wife. He’s in very good health for a man nearing 100, but I don’t think he finds that much of a blessing.
I think of him, unwilling or unable to deal with us annoying human family members who just want to blather meaningless platitudes, trying to fill the empty air with something. I wish he had a pet in his life, to quietly sit on his lap and let him be whatever it is he wishes to be that day. It’s well accepted at this point that owning a pet is good for the elderly. I think of him, and I see him when I listen to Ward, and I wonder- how old is “too old”?
What do you think? Should there be a cutoff age for adoption?