“At first she cried and cried,” Sue says. “But as the days went on the crying lessened, and I could see she was settling. After 10 days I had a call from the centre sayinG: ‘We’ve found someone who wants to adopt her. Can you bring her in?’ And I thought, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ I just couldn’t let her go.”
Sue adopted Rosie and describes them as “two old ladies trundling along together. She was so scared, and now she’s so happy and it’s just wonderful,” she says, adding with a smile, “I do spoil her rotten with little pieces of chicken and salmon. But why not? Who knows how long we’ll have together. I just want to make the most of every day.”
As Sue has discovered, older dogs can give so much in terms of companionship and love. However recent figures from Dogs Trust shows that just five per cent of prospective owners were looking for a dog aged eight or over.
Meanwhile, online searches for “buying a puppy” shot up by 213 per cent after lockdown began in March 2020, compared with the previous 12 months. The charity is asking people to remember that, when it comes to giving a rescue dog a second chance, older dogs need new homes, too.
“They are often calmer and less energetic,” says Adam Clowes, Dogs Trust operations director. “So, although they may still be playful and enjoy a stroll in the park, hiking up hills may be a thing of the past for them. Also,” he adds, “with an older dog, what you see is what you get both in terms of personality and size. And although you can certainly teach an older dog new tricks, they usually know the training basics and have experienced many things in their lives, so they are more likely to take things in their stride.”
The benefits of sharing your life with a dog are well documented. Numerous studies suggest that stroking and cuddling a canine buddy can act as a mood lifter, and the daily routine of walks and feeding times help to give structure to our days. Plus, all those walks increase our quotas of exercise and social interaction.
No wonder over 80 per cent of people who took part in a survey conducted for Mars Petcare said that, just one month after getting a dog, they felt a lot less lonely.
Sue reports that, although Rosie has arthritis – and needs steps in order to access that comfy sofa – she still enjoys her gentle strolls across the green spaces around their village.
“Before she came into my life I couldn’t see a future of any kind,” she says. “I’d become very hermit-like. Now Rosie makes me get dressed and go out. She’ll have a good sniff of where the pheasants and partridges have been, then she’ll come home and snooze or curl up next to me and lick my hand.”
“Helping an older dog enjoy their autumnal years is incredibly rewarding,” says Adam Clowes. “Owners always tell us that the feeling you get from seeing them safe, warm, happy and enjoying an afternoon snooze snuggled up on the sofa is something that can’t be beaten.”
Clearly, Sue would agree. “Having another living, breathing being close to me is wonderful,” she says. “Really, I’d say Rosie has saved me.”
How you can help
Dogs Trust needs your support now more than ever. Donating as part of our Christmas appeal will help Dogs Trust to continue their vital work in caring for over 15,000 dogs a year.
Since the end of lockdown in July, the charity experienced a 35 per cent increase in phone calls about people handing over dogs, and there has been a 182 per cent increase in traffic to the “giving up your dog” pages on its website, compared with pre-pandemic levels.
To find out more about volunteering, fostering or adopting a dog, please visit dogstrust.org.uk