Dear Doctor: September 2022


But why was the older dog left at the shelter?

Q: My wife and I like the idea of adopting an older dog who might not otherwise have the opportunity  to live in a home, but what’s giving us pause is wondering why a family would leave a dog at a shelter in the first place. Doesn’t that mean the dog was a handful and the family finally give up on him?

Abel Pell
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Dear Mr. Pell,

A: We understand your concern, but the reason older dogs end up at shelters almost always has nothing to do with them but, rather, with circumstances in their former home. Sometimes, sad to say, older dogs are dumped because the novelty of having a dog has worn off. Other times, a dog’s owner has died, or a well-meaning household realizes they simply no longer have enough time for their pet — perhaps there has been a change in the work schedule or a new baby has arrived.

In some instances, a dog’s human family has moved to an apartment where dogs are not allowed. Then, too, allergic reactions to dogs can spring up unexpectedly; sometimes a family can have a dog for quite a while before someone in the household reacts with sneezing and watery eyes. Or a single person is going to be married, and the prospective spouse is allergic to dogs, or simply doesn’t like them.

If you find an older dog in a shelter that you feel good about, it’s okay to go with your instincts and take him home. He’s probably not homeless because of something he did.


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