A Memorial Day Tribute: Senior Pets

Posted on by Mary Shafer

Today is a national holiday in America, when we remember the men and women of our armed forces who have fallen in battle or who were lost while playing supportive roles for those on the battlefield. I want to say thank you to all the people who gave their children and brothers and sisters and moms and dads and other relatives to us—their larger American family—to do what needed to be done, however unpleasant and difficult and sad. Thank you to those brave souls who stood against the wrong that others would do to us as a nation, and who went forth toward something they believed in, for a cause larger than themselves.

Anything I can say here would be a poor imitation of what I believe is the best, most eloquent and elegant elegy ever given to these people, so I’ll simply link to Abraham Lincoln’s haunting and inspired Gettysburg Address. I ask you to take the three minutes you’ll need to read through it, even if you’ve done so before. I dare you not to be moved again by the spare prose, the carefully chosen words, the absolute feeling of true awe and responsibility this president clearly had as he composed this tribute to the men and women (yes, there WERE women who not only fought, but also died, in the American Civil War) who gave their lives to see that the great experiment that still is America did not fail.

Another memorial is being faced every day by the pets of older people, and I want to talk about that today, on a day of remembrance. We need to not forget that suffering doesn’t just happen in war, but also on the home front. And I feel it’s important to give voice to those who suffer, and who have no voice of their own. The memorial of which I speak here is that of the companion relationship between older Americans and their pets, when that bond becomes irrevocably severed.
I’ve mentioned on this blog that one of the things that can “disable” a pet is advanced age, just as it can with people. But aside from the regular aches, pains and things that stop working, there’s another way that age disables pets: In our hyper-youth-oriented culture, older pets are often considered undesirable and disposable. One of the more common ways an older pet is left homeless is when its owner either dies or enters a nursing home, where their pets are not allowed.

Now, don’t even get me STARTED on the sheer stupidity of this policy, given everything we know about the proof that living with a pet lengthens lives and improves their quality. For the purposes of this post, we simply need to acknowledge that the problem exists, and realize there’s something we can do about it.

That “something” is adopting—or at least fostering—one of these older pets who, for one reason or another, finds itself abandoned. Many of these animals have nothing wrong with them other than the fact that they’re advanced in years. Some do have their own health issues, but all of them have one thing in common: Through no fault of their own, they are left without a family and someone to love them—usually rather suddenly—and no one to help them make the transition from beloved companion to unwanted burden.
Enter Senior Pets: All They Need Is Love, a newsletter published quarterly by Joan Antelman, also available in blog form. This newsletter is dedicated to finding permanent, loving homes for older dogs and cats in the New York City area. Joan’s organization, as we do, believes senior pets make wonderful, loving companions no matter what their age! She encourages her readers to visit the rescue groups and shelters mentioned in the newsletter to see all the great, devoted cats and dogs who will be grateful and happy to live out their remaining days with someone just like you.

Please take a moment to visit this great little site, and to consider adopting or fostering one of the dear critters listed there. I know the economy is bad, and I know we’re all tightening our belts quite a bit these days. But ask yourself honestly: Is there not one thing you could maybe do without this year that might allow you to provide a home for one of these sweet pups or kitties? Perhaps it’s time for you to make a large deposit into the Karma Bank: Here’s your opportunity!

Even if you honestly can’t welcome one of these animals into your home, please pass the site’s address on to at least one other person you think might be able to. Better yet, take a few minutes and work your contact list like a phone tree, asking that each recipient pass it on to just one other person. It’s such a small thing to do that could help so much.

Thank you, and I hope your Memorial Day was meaningful and reminded you of how lucky we are to live in this country, despite its flaws and missteps. I am reminded each time I’m able to post something here without recrimination for my thoughts, that there are countries where I wouldn’t be allowed to reach out to you about something we all care about.

America rocks. Thank you, veterans, for keeping it rolling, too.

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