Why Adopt Senior Dogs?

It was mid May, and we were having our first heat wave of the Summer. I had just clocked in for my volunteer shift at the shelter. Lynn, One of the senior volunteers came up to me and asked me to look in on a new dog that had been surrendered the day before. He was not a new dog, but an old dog (a very old dog), and a SoHumane alumni. It was his third time in the shelter.

Murtagh, formerly known as Pepper, had been brought into the shelter from another shelter in Central California six years ago. He had a treated head wound, and looked like he had been scalped. He was adopted out pretty quickly, but last November he had been brought back after his owner had gone into the hospital. She had recovered, so the family came back and retrieved Murtagh from the shelter. Then a few months later his owner had passed away, so Murtagh was brought back to the shelter again.

Lynn, told me that she thought Murtagh might be in shock, and since I was the champion to the under dog at the shelter, she wondered if I would go spend some time with him. I am often good naturedly poked fun at because I fall for the “ugly dogs”. In truth, it seems to me that the dogs that a lot of people tend to see as “ugly” are the most cuddly and sweetest, therefore the most beautiful to me!

It was hot in the kennels, and we were full of dogs. Murtagh was in one of our larger small dog kennels with two other dogs. When I crawled in, an old decrepit rodent looking dog, with a bald spot on his head, wasted no time jumping into my lap. One of his kennel mates was a long term resident of SoHumane because she was so shy, and the other small dog was an adorable Chihuahua, who was also a bully. After Murtagh, sat in my lap for a minute, he jumped down and started pawing at the kennel door. I got the feeling he was needing to go potty, so I quickly put his leash and harness on and took him outside. After taking care of business, I didn’t have the heart to put him back in his kennel. It was sweltering hot, and Murtagh and his bald spot looked miserable, so I took him into the shelter lobby where there was air conditioning.

I ended up spending the rest of the day with him. He fell asleep in my arms like a baby, and I fell in love! Well.. I think the falling in love was mutual on both our parts.

When I had to run an errand, I managed to get one of the staff to hold him. We discovered through out the day that Murtagh was most likely deaf…and possibly blind, but that didn’t seem to stop his indomitable spirit.

At one point during the day, I took him out to a play yard, and he discovered a tennis ball. He looked at the ball and started dancing around it, and then look at me. He started barking and barking excitedly, and it freaked me out at first because he hadn’t shown much energy before that.

I picked up the ball and threw it a little ways within his line of sight, and he ran and fetched it, and placed it in my hand. It turned out that fetch was his favorite thing to do in the whole world! (It was my first time playing fetch with an almost blind dog! Ever try it? It’s definitely different!!!)
That evening, as the shelter was about to close, I just couldn’t let him go. I had leave town the next afternoon for work, but I just couldn’t bring myself to put him back! I got special permission to foster him for the night. The way he looked at me all the way home just wrenched my heart. He thought he had been rescued, and he looked at me like I was the most beautiful person on earth!

The next day when I took him back before work, I put him in his kennel, and as I was walking away from the shelter, I could hear his howl above all the rest. I cried, (which was inconvenient, being as I had just put on make up and was on my way to work!).

For the next few weeks, every chance I got, I would visit him.
Because of my job, and living situation, I wasn’t able to adopt Murtagh, and it was breaking my heart!!! Even though he couldn’t hear or see me very well, he could always smell me when I came to the shelter, and I could hear his little howl letting me know he knew I was there. I kept wracking my brain trying to figure out how I could adopt him? It was so hot, and he was being bullied by his kennel mate. He was miserable, and I felt helpless. Fortunately the director had been trying to figure out what to do for the little guy as well, and she finally found someone who would foster him. When I mentioned to her that I was wishing I could adopt him, and maybe him being fostered would give me time to find a new place to live, the director spoke to the foster and she agreed to keep him until I could find a place, if I wanted to adopt him.
I prayed about it, because adopting a dog, any dog, let alone a 10 year senior dog, is a huge decision and commitment. I’ve been single all of my life, and have never had to worry about anyone but me. I was unsure about taking this step. I prayed that if Murtagh was supposed to be mine, that he would still be available for adoption on Monday of the following week.
The Sunday before the deadline, I decided to visit the foster where Murtagh was staying to see what she was like, and to see how Murtagh would react to me after not seeing me for two weeks. I needed to know exactly how he would feel about me, let alone if he would remember me. Sure enough, when the foster opened the door, I walked in and was immediately greeted by her two dogs, Caboose (the Latin lover), and Isabelle. Once Murtagh smelled me, he was butting the other two dogs aside and trying to jump into my arms. It was the sweetest thing and it warmed my heart! I sat down and he immediately flipped on his back for a good belly rub. (Belly rubs are his second favorite thing in the whole world). That was that! I knew his heart already mine!

I adopted Murtagh on June 13th. My friend and fellow volunteer, Ellen was there with me, waiting to congratulate me when the adoption had been finalized. I had to fly out on another trip the next day, and it felt like everything had happened so fast, I didn’t get a chance to think, until I got to my overnight in Helena, MT. I wasn’t even able to see Murtagh the day I adopted him. Once I got some down time, I went into panic mode. I had what is called “buyers remorse”. How was I going to take care of him? My job doesn’t pay that well. What if something happens to him? Where were we going to live? What if I was a terrible fur mamma? Again, I had never been responsible for so much as a fish in my adult life. Don’t worry, returning him wasn’t even a option for me!
I had to breath, and pray a lot! It pushed me into a new threshold of faith that I have never been in before. Once I was able to hold him again, it changed everything.

God has used Murtagh to help me grow in faith. Sometimes things can get a little stressful, but Jesus has provided time and again for us. We currently are searching for a home, but meanwhile, God has provided house sitting jobs that allow me to bring Murtagh. It is amazing how everything just seems to fall into place, right when I need it to. It is like walking in the dark, but whenever I need to take another step, it is suddenly illuminated so that I can continue one. God has used Murtagh to bring new friends into my life! I have been incredibly blessed, more so since Murtagh arrived!

Loving a senior dog, or any animal is life changing. The way he crawls up into my lap for comfort, when he has once again walked into a solid object that he didn’t see, while playing fetch. The way he occasionally lifts up his head and looks for me during a nap to make sure I am still nearby. The way he has his nose to the ground searching for me, (and often walks right past me because he is so focused on finding my scent). The way he crawls into my lap and gives me kisses to comfort me when I am crying. Owning an animal, any animal can be so healing, when you choose to love it. They sense it, and will love you with all of their hearts!

About Murtagh: I have a weird feeling that somewhere in Murtagh’s family line, a sheep bred with a possum, and their child mated with a terrier. He has the face of a possum that looks almost raccoonish from a distance, so there might be some of that DNA in his profile as well. He has the body of a miniature sheep, and skinny spindly legs. When he is laying out sunning himself, I often freak out a little at first because my mind thinks it is a dead rodent! His fur sticks out all over the place, but his belly is naked. He has a bald spot where he was injured, and it is as soft as a baby’s behind. My lips are addicted to his bald spot, and I have discovered that his bald spot is addicted to my lips. He shoved it into my lips the other day, which is how I discovered this. I have named his bald spot, Picard. Incidentally he also has a large age spot on his belly named Jean-Luc, for those who are interested.
Murtagh was born in the United States, most likely in Central California, but he seems to think that he is an old Scottish Warrior. I chose the name Murtagh because of the Outlander series. I have never seen the show, but I have read some of the books, and for some reason the character Murtagh Fraser kept coming to me whenever I saw him. In my mind, I always pictured Murtagh as a grizzled old man, a Scottish warrior, who was fierce, loyal, and thoughtful. I get the sense that when he is communicating with me, he is yelling at me (because he is deaf) in a Scottish accent. He calls me lass, and sometimes mummy, or mumma. His a very bossy sort, who is not interested in human food, unless it is cheese, coffee, or coconut oil. He is one of those dogs who eats to live, not the other way around. He is a very picky eater!!! He has gotten a lot better about eating since he had twelve teeth removed. All of his front upper teeth, and a couple of his lower. He still has his chewing teeth which is the most important!
Murtagh has been asking for months for me to get him a kilt, which I finally was able to do recently. Pics will be coming soon.
He isn’t fond of big dogs, or young dogs jumping on him. He can be a cantankerous old goat to them. He hates cats and deer. He has told me he thinks “theeey are Nazi spies, and should be irrrrradicated frrrom the earrrth, Lass!”. I am hoping to change his opinion of this as I would like to adopt a cat some day, but we shall see.
I fall in love with Murtagh more and more everyday! He is house trained, and mostly well behaved. He knows the difference between a dog toy and a human toy. He doesn’t chew on things he shouldn’t . He is low energy, and loves a good nap. He naps they way a hobbit eats! He loves to walk…although, if I want an actual workout, I have to put him in a dog carrier, and save his walk for my cool down. I have had a few people poke fun at me for adopting such an old dog. I don’t let this bother me because I am the fortunate one. Murtagh rescued me. When he looks at me like I am the most beautiful person on earth? I feel sorry for those who don’t get that look. He shows me in his looks, cuddles, and kisses, how grateful he is to have me in his life. Why Adopt a senior dog? Anyone who adopts a senior dog, even if they live a few months, is so fortunate! It is healing, and fulfilling, and brings happiness! Adopting Murtagh Fraser and his bald spot Picard is one of the best decisions I have ever made!