Dogs for Later Years

A dog accompanies its human for 15 years or more. Older people, in particular, should therefore think carefully about whether and which dog they should get when they get old. Small breeds are particularly suitable.

A little dog isn’t a real dog!” – This view is widespread. However, there comes a time for every dog ​​owner when he has to reconsider this prejudice. Namely, when you get older and inevitably ask yourself the question: Which dog should accompany me in old age?

This is the question that René Krebs, over 70 years old, asked himself?*. He used to be out and about with his shepherd dog Lara, sometimes running here and there with his dog for a chat with other dog owners. When his bitch died, it had to be a shepherd again—there was no other option for cancer. And so he took Mailo, a three-year-old shepherd, from the animal shelter. But Mailo has a different character than Lara. He is a loner and does not get along with other dogs. So cancer walks alone today; other dog owners avoid him because they don’t want to be confronted. And the question arises as to what will happen in six or seven years. Because cancer is already not walking well and is struggling with his arthrosis. Did he think it through carefully with Mailo? Krebs hesitates with the answer and finally says that he does not regret for a moment that he took Mailo from the animal shelter, after all the animal deserved it.

The Decision for the Future

Getting a dog in old age needs to be well thought out. Non-fiction author Manu Wirtz also advocates this. In her paperback entitled “60 plus dog: The right dog for the later years” she deals with exactly this topic – and is convinced: compassion is a bad advisor when choosing a dog. It may be guided by feelings, but in the end, you should above all let reason prevail. Anyone who has always had large dogs by their side can hardly imagine going running with dwarf dogs. But as we approach old age, we need to reconsider these prejudices. “It doesn’t help anyone – least of all the dog – if you get a dog in the exuberance of your feelings and only then realize that you can’t take good care of it,” writes Wirtz.

The question to ask yourself is not how you feel right now, but how you might feel in a few years. Because not only are we getting older, but also the dog: “It should be ‘easy’ for you to be able to hold or carry your dog in the future,” and this is meant literally, Wirtz insists. Because even the dog knows old age and has to be carried up the stairs. If the owner is no longer able to do this, for example, because of his own back problems, he is suddenly faced with the difficult decision of having to part with the dog.

Wirtz points out in her book that many breeds have related or similar small formats: “Small Spitz instead of Samoyed, Shiba Inu instead of Chow-Chow, Pug instead of Boxer.” In the chapter «Which breed suits me?» 23 dog breeds with a maximum height of 40 centimeters are presented individually, with their advantages, but also with their needs, from the Bichon Frisé to the Jack Russell Terrier and the Miniature Schnauzer.

Of course, even small dogs need a lot of attention and walks. But their range of motion is smaller and “it won’t knock you off your feet if it jumps on the leash,” argues Wirtz. In terms of personality, too, the little ones are in no way inferior to the big ones. On the contrary: “Sometimes the impression arises that they even have more of it than is appropriate for their stature.”

Wirtz is also familiar with the relevant studies that deal with the effects of dogs on older people. Finally, she summarizes the many good influences as follows: “There are medicines for many ailments in old age, but none for boredom or loneliness.”

Positive Effect Confirmed

Today, this knowledge has also reached the care of the elderly. We know about the positive effect of dogs on old people, especially on people with dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Visiting with dogs is not only allowed in some retirement homes today but welcomed (see box). In some institutions, it is now possible to live with your dog. The prerequisite is that you can take care of your animal yourself or have relatives or friends who guarantee to take care of the animal should you become unwell.

The deputy head of nursing and care at the Kreuzlingen retirement center in Thurgau, Pia Arnold, not only knows the relevant literature, but also the positive influence of dogs from her daily work: “However, every admission with a dog is checked thoroughly.” In her retirement center, there are also two cats, mice, bird aviaries, and aquariums, and trained therapy dogs also do a good job.

Dogs are generally allowed in the 25 retirement homes in the city of Zurich, says Lena Tobler, press spokeswoman for the city of Zurich: “It is important that a dog can also live in a retirement home in a species-appropriate manner and that it does not disturb the other residents.” However, she is not aware of a single case where problems would have arisen.

There is a lot to be said for keeping a dog in old age. Every dog ​​lover knows that. However, counter-arguments should not be brushed aside. You owe yourself and the animal a thorough examination of the pros and cons. Wirtz’s book provides a good basis for this weighing up. “60 plus dog” is veritable advocacy for keeping dogs in old age. Chapter by chapter, relevant topics are addressed. From the selection of the dog to possible illnesses, small tips on upbringing, useful tips and tricks, to dealing with death and grief.

The book is easy to read, and line by line you can feel that the author knows and loves the animals – especially the little ones for the later years. So “60 plus dog” is a good guide – ultimately not only for older people but in general for people who are considering keeping a dog. Even people who have had a dog their whole life would like to warmly recommend this little booklet. For, as is well known, age does not protect against folly.

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