WHAT COULD BE better or sweeter or cuddlier than a puppy—you know, that ball of fluff the kids nagged you for an then allowed you to walk and feed for the next 10 years?
By now I think we all know the benefits of pet ownership, not limited to dogs, although we all have our biases. They are God’s own antidepressant, for one thing. They provide a reason to get up in the morning, should we need one; in fact (and I’m talking dogs here) they may cause us to catapult out of a deep sleep to keep the carpeting clean. They give us an excuse for outdoor exercise, several times a day. Single guys know them to be chick magnets, and the rest of us find ourselves in new social circles because of them.
No disrespect for puppies, but I’d like to make the case for older dogs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they don’t want to adopt a dog from a shelter, would rather start with a puppy, so they will “know what we’re getting.” Suggesting that a puppy is a tabula rosa to be inscribed by the new owners alone. With an older dog, these same philosophers say, you don’t know what problems you’ll inherit.
That’s rather the opposite of the truth. An older dog, anywhere from a year or two to 8 or 9, comes to you fully baked, it’s true. But what you see is what you get; if you don’t like what you see, it may be the wrong dog for you, but it’s not a “wrong dog.”
Please don’t misinterpret: Puppies are adorable creatures, and I join the oohing and aahing when a new little life arrives at the dog park. But I didn’t have to housebreak my older dog, Jeremiah, whom I adopted at age 9. And I didn’t have to help him through the teething phase (also known as the phase during which a pup will chew on any sweater or arm or chair leg that presents itself). And I was assured of a companion who didn’t have a lot more energy than I had.
So, sure, let’s celebrate puppies along with older dogs. But that doesn’t mean buying from a commercial puppy mill. It doesn’t even have to mean buying from a reputable breeder: The fanciest people I know now proudly declare that their dog came through one of the many dog rescues* that operate through the Mid-Atlantic (how’s that for a happy by-product of political correctness?). Even if you’re intent on a particular kind of dog, remember that there’s a rescue for just about every breed.
So today, go out and find a puppy to pet. And give a little love to his older brother or sister as well.
* Here’s a link to Petfinder.com to help you find a nearby rescue.