Older dogs can also make great companions.
Several people have asked us why we adopt older Siberian Huskies rather than a puppy or a young dog. Our answer is very simple. It is because they are the best of the best! We adopted our first one, Sebastian, when he was nine and he lived to be nearly fourteen. Almost three months after our first love died, we adopted our second one, Zen, two days after he turned ten.
In the past five years, we have talked to hundreds of people with Siberian Huskies of all ages and we think the young ones are adorable - but not for us. A woman in our neighborhood had a two year old that was on the roof when she came home from work one day! Of course, if we got a puppy or a young dog, we would crate train him/her so, hopefully, one of ours wouldn't be on the roof or worse.
We love having a dog that is trustworthy in the house, likes to play and take walks for a few hours when we come home, and then settles in for a peaceful evening. Zen has started to wind down by about 7:00 or 8:00 pm (just as Sebastian used to do) unless something exciting is going on. In our home, exciting usually means company is visiting or we are cooking. Snuggling on the couch, snoozing while Dad watches TV, or sitting next to Mom while she is correcting papers (just like Sebastian) are Zen's usual evening activities. Sebastian liked to go to bed by 10:00 pm and sometimes would even go upstairs to sleep by himself if we stay up too late (just like Zen). This is very advantageous for two middle-aged people who need to leave the house by 7:00 am to get to work on time.
Our Siberians have kept us healthy. We walk about six miles a day with them because we live in a townhouse with no back yard and we think that is quite an accomplishment for a man with a hip replacement and a woman who had an unsuccessful foot surgery. We think a younger dog might require more exercise and require younger owners. Our walks are special times. If one of us is out of town or ill, we are jealous that the other spouse got in an extra walk! We have established a routine that works for us. Dad does the morning walk because it takes Mom longer to get ready for work...it's a female thing. We hire someone to come in and do a noon walk. It became necessary when our first boy had a digestive problem and took steroids for a short while, which made him drink more. After he no longer required the steroids, we thought, "Hey, it doesn't cost much and he deserves some extra love and care at his age." Our current resident Siberian usually takes his evening walk at 7:00 or 8:00 pm and doesn't need to go again until morning. We have offered him a walk at 9:30 but he sometimes doesn't want to bother because he's already settled for the night! Although Zen doesn't need a dog walker at noon; we just think he deserves it. One of us arrives home between 3:30 and 4:00 and this walk goes to whoever arrives home first. Mom takes the night walk every night at 7:00 pm.
Some people are surprised that our dogs have as much spunk and energy as they do at their relatively advanced ages. We have found, however, that Siberians age very gracefully and are still spry at an age when other breeds their size might be considered geriatric.
We have also found that older dogs can learn new tricks and very quickly, too! Sebastian learned that "dirty" meant that we wanted him to leave something he found on the ground outside. He knew that "all gone" when we ate something meant that he wasn't going to get a taste of it, so he'd just walk away. "Coming up?" was an invitation to come up on the bed or couch. He also knew "give kisses", "around the block", "go tell Daddy", "go tell Mommy", "go tell Gram", "go tell Aunt Brenda", "want to go for a ride?" and "want to go for a walk?" He knew "wait" when he was outside on a leash and we stopped to cross the street, and as soon as we said "bedtime," he'd start up the stairs. If we said "around the block" and picked up the leash, as soon as we were out the door he headed towards the side yard, but if we first said "want go for a walk," he headed to the front of the house for the route we took for a longer walk. He already knew how to sit and shake hands when we got him. Zen already knew how to sit when we got him. He learned "get it" and "drop it" (while playing with his toys) in one night! He's working on learning to give kisses now.
Our first boy, Sebastian, is featured in the Rainbow Bridge Memorials. We know that his third owner, who had him for a year, adopted him from a local SPCA. His third owner is a friend of a friend who adopted Sebastian for his eight-year-old son. Sebastian bonded with the father rather than the son, however, so they got a puppy for the boy. However; when the wife was expecting again, she said she needed a bigger house or one less dog. Sebastian's papers came with him from the SPCA and this third owner contacted the first owner, who was very surprised to find out the family they gave Sebastian to had put him in the SPCA. They said he was destructive when left alone. We suspect with crate training, Sebastian would have not been homeless twice. By the time we met him, his destructive years were behind him. We picked him up on a Saturday and put him to bed on the floor in the bedroom Saturday night. He slept there without a peep that first night and every night for the rest of his life.
Our second boy, Zen(formerly Nikita), is featured in the success stories section. He was an outside dog for his first ten years but will be a spoiled, indoor boy for the rest of his life. He did sleep indoors on the bed with his first Daddy sometimes, but was only allowed in one room. Zen arrived on a Saturday and settled in right away. He slept on the bed the first night without a peep and will continue to sleep wherever he wants for the rest of his life. We used a crate on Monday when we went to work. We quickly found out that he, too, was trustworthy in his golden years.
Our boys have been adaptable, playful, stable, independent, stubborn, smart and, most of all, very loving. I think they know we took a chance on them when their chances were slim.
They repay us hundredfold each and every day. An older dog is a rare treasure. We will always be a retirement home for these treasures.