“We are interested in adopting someone a little older who has been here for a while”, I said to the kennel technician after my husband Mark and I finished a walkthrough of the shelter by ourselves. “Our dog MJ–a three year old lab and Rottweiler mix–recently lost her best bud and we’re looking for someone closer in age to her. Lenny was a 13 year old yellow lab, big and dopey, but had a lot of patience. MJ is incredibly high strung and anxious at times, so we hope to find someone who meshes well with her.”
The tech asked us to follow her to an outdoor enclosure housing three dogs. As soon as we approached the fence, two of the dogs ran up to us and started barking, the third sat in a hanging blue barrel bed looking at us. “The small cream colored dog is Molly. She’s a five year old Shepherd mix and she’s been with us for over a year. She’s kind of meek and mild, very sweet girl, gets along good with other dogs.” At that, we added Molly to the list of who we were interested in introducing to MJ. Every dog MJ met that morning seemed to frighten or upset her. Halfway through the list, Mark and I looked at each other with uncertainty but said nothing and continued with the process. It was finally Molly’s turn, and at that point we expected MJ to act just as she did with the others, but the most amazing thing happened: MJ didn’t react to Molly at all. Instead of being anxious and constantly moving, pacing, sitting down and standing up, MJ sat there looking at Molly from a few feet away, only breaking her obviously relaxed state to acknowledge gnats that flew close to her face. Molly’s demeanor was calm yet alert. She yawned. We had to think about it.
Ten minutes into our 50 minute drive home, Mark and I began talking about what life could be like with Molly, the pros and cons, how our family would change, could MJ’s easy acceptance be too good to be true? We still had to think about it. Lost in conversation, without even realizing where we had driven to, we found ourselves at our local humane society thrift store. While browsing the shop, we picked out a yellow teddy bear for Molly, you know, “just in case”, but we needed to sleep on it. The next morning came quickly, and my husband and I both looked at each other, searching each other’s faces for an answer on what to do. We agreed that there was no way we could leave Molly at the shelter and her adoption papers were signed that day.
The first week Molly was home with us, she wasn’t interested in eating or drinking and she struggled to poop even at least once a day. She was withdrawn and stayed in the hallway away from us, and when we tried giving her treats and her new teddy bear, she had no interest in either. I began to question if we made the right decision. Mark kept reassuring me that we had and encouraged me to give Molly time. I listened and continued to do my best at establishing a routine with Molly, the same daily routine as MJ’s.
After almost two weeks with us, we went to the park. Mark and I closed all of the gates to one of the fields and unhooked the leash from Molly’s collar. She took off immediately. She ran and jumped and ran some more, her mouth was wide and her tongue sticking out. She and MJ chased after each other and rolled around together. We were overwhelmed with joy. From that day on, Molly began to feel comfortable as part of our family, and she and MJ began to establish their relationship as sisters.
Now, each and every morning, Molly follows MJ, greets us with bleary eyes, a yawn (or two), and a good stretch. Once the door is open, she darts to the backyard and begins her day with a cartwheel followed by a healthy poop, and then she eats breakfast. The rest of the day is filled with words of praise and encouragement from her paw-rents, playing tug with MJ, walks, food, and naps. On special days, we go to the park to run and play or to the farmers market to interact with our community and neighbors.
Our sweet MJ has adapted incredibly well to life without Lenny and her new life with Molly. Mark and I have only ever adopted puppies but we have come to learn that adopting an older dog has its benefits. First, there has been no stress of having to train a puppy, which works really well with our schedule. Second, there is no competition for attention and pack life is already understood. Lastly, we’ve learned more about hope and patience. Molly has taught us that at certain times throughout life, things might seem unpredictable and unsettled, but often times they work out. Molly has taught us other things as well, things that as adults we’re finally learning to appreciate. Things like never underestimating the power of an afternoon nap, and that a good morning poop is something worth getting excited over.
Adopting an older dog is one of the best decisions we’ve ever made for our family, and we strongly encourage others to consider older dogs (or animals) when searching for their next family member. Think of all they have to offer but most importantly, think of the life (or lives) you could save and reawaken.