News Treehugger Voices This 13-Year-Old Dog Has a Home Again It's heartbreaking when senior pets lose their families. By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Updated July 29, 2021 01:46PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email Magdalen in her new yard. Mary Jo DiLonardo News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive This weekend, my husband and I were the last step in a transport to get a dog to her new home. Typically, when we have a new dog in the backseat, it’s a raucous foster puppy (or two) in a crate. There’s usually barking and tumbling and playing until the motion of the car lulls them to sleep. But this passenger was a much different story. Magdalen is a 13-year-old border collie. Her owner gave her up temporarily when he was sick, but when he fully recuperated a few months later, he said he didn’t want her back. He had her since she was a puppy but now had no place for her. The family who had given her a temporary home had children and other dogs and was unable to give her a permanent home. When Speak St. Louis, the rescue I work with, was contacted about the border collie, they offered to take her in. She went to the groomer for her very matted coat and to the vet for a basic health check. The spa visit made her look (and no doubt, feel) much better. But the vet didn’t have great news. She had to have surgery for mammary masses and her mouth was swollen with all sorts of dental issues. One surgery later and she had six masses removed. Two teeth fell out during cleaning and 11 more had to be extracted. Fortunately, the growths were benign and she slowly began to recover. Stressed and Resigned Magdalen barely moved on the ride to her new home. Mary Jo DiLonardo On the trip home, the sweet senior looked so resigned in our backseat. The last kind transporter gently lifted her from her car and placed her in ours, where she barely moved as she re-settled herself. She had just spent several weeks in the care of a wonderful foster parent where she recuperated from her surgery and from being left by her family. I’m sure at this point she was just shut down and stressed and quietly rolling with whatever happened to her. She took the pieces of kibble we offered but her tail didn’t wag because it was tucked mostly between her legs. It was heartbreaking to know that not so long ago she was someone’s pet and she was discarded. It’s understandable that her owner needed some temporary help when he was sick and overwhelmed. But I can't imagine why he wouldn't have wanted her back now. I think of my own dog and dogs we've lost to old age in the past. They're family and they stay that way forever. Dogs aren’t disposable. Why People Give Up Senior Pets Senior pets often end up in shelters and with rescues when their owners die and no one in the family is able to take them in. Or some people give them up when they become harder to care for. Seniors can have more health problems and often people can't afford the costs. They also aren’t as fun as their younger counterparts, and sometimes get cranky or snippy around children. For rescues and shelters, it’s much easier to get a cute, bouncy puppy adopted than a less active senior that might come with health baggage and who might only be with the family for a few years. A survey by PetFinder found that “less adoptable” pets like seniors or special needs animals spend nearly four times as long on the adoption site before they find a home. But older dogs have lots of benefits. Unlike puppies, they usually arrive housebroken. Sure, there are the occasional accidents as they figure things out, but they mostly know they are supposed to potty outside. Senior dogs won’t chew your furniture or your fingers. They don’t bounce off the walls and wake you up in the middle of the night to go outside. They don’t need as much exercise as younger dogs but will revel in all the attention you want to give them. Her Forever Home Mary Jo DiLonardo As for Magdalen, she is coming out of her shell in her new home. She was adopted by a good friend of mine who is a dog trainer. She has a soft heart for seniors and a passion for brainy border collies. Because the pup is very driven by food, her new mom is going to try nosework with her. That’s an activity where she can sniff out treats in all sorts of hidden places. That will give her a job and a hobby—and lots of food! Magdalen doesn’t have her tail between her legs anymore and the resident dogs are figuring out that she’s here to stay. But the key is for her to understand that this is now her forever home and no one will ever leave her again. View Article Sources "Black Dog Syndrome." Petfinder.