Saving senior pets

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The Sydney Dogs and Cats Home is giving older pets a second chance at life with the Senior Pet Project. But they need your support. By Shane Conroy

For Adam Goodes and partner Natalie, it was love at first sight when they met Chance.

The future did not look good for nine-year-old Arlo when she limped into the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home. A council ranger had found her roaming the streets and brought her into the care of the dedicated team at Sydney’s only registered charity pound. Arlo was suffering from a degenerative joint disease that would require ongoing veterinary treatment. But staff at the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home discovered that Arlo’s original owner had fallen on difficult financial times and was not able to provide the care Arlo would need.

“The reality is that the seniors often require vet treatment and ongoing care,” says Renae Jackson, animal care team manager at the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home. “That makes older animals much more difficult to rehome, and is why most of our oldies tend to have a longer stay with us.” 

“We always knew we wanted to adopt a senior pet, giving them a loving and caring home for their golden years. We met our little lady at Sydney Dogs and Cats Home. The rest is history.”

Adam Goodes, AFL legend and owner of Chance

Adam Goodes, AFL legend and owner of Chance

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case for Arlo. She found her angels in the form of a Sydney Swans AFL legend and his partner. For Adam and Natalie Goodes, it was love at first sight. 

“We always knew we wanted to adopt a senior pet, giving them a loving and caring home for their golden years,” says Adam. “We met our little lady at Sydney Dogs and Cats Home after a team member suggested we take her out on a walk. The rest is history.”

Aptly renamed ‘Chance’, the one-time stray is now living out her retirement years in the Goodes household, and Adam and Natalie found the experience so positive they have since become ambassadors of the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home.

“Adopting Chance has changed our lives in such a positive way, we think about all our plans with her in mind and actually spend more time at home to be together as a family,” adds Natalie. “She is housebroken, doesn’t chew up our furniture and isn’t destructive—we haven’t had to worry about the puppy phase.”

A friend in need…

While Adam and Natalie have enjoyed the benefits of adopting an older animal, many pet owners don’t necessarily see the upside of taking home a senior pet.  “That’s why we started the Senior Pet Project,” says Jackson. 

“While our oldies do need a little extra help, we want people to know that adopting a senior pet can be very fulfilling.”

The Sydney Dogs and Cats Home has been taking care of Sydney’s lost, abandoned and neglected pets since 1946. The home services multiple council areas and does not place a time limit on any animal waiting adoption. Around 3000 pets come through their doors every year.

“That’s why we started the Senior Pet Project. While our oldies do need a little extra help, we want people to know that adopting a senior pet can be very fulfilling.”

Renae Jackson, animal care team manager, Sydney Dogs and Cats Home

“Around 25 per cent of those are senior pets,” explains Jackson. “It’s certainly a concern and rehoming them can be difficult. But we’ve had great success since starting the Senior Pet Project in mid 2018.”

Jackson says the first step is always to search for the pets’ owners. However, many of the pets that arrive at the Sydney Dogs and Cats Home are not microchipped, which makes reuniting lost pets with their owners very difficult.

“It really is vital to have your pets microchipped,” she says. “Many dogs and cats get out of their homes accidentally and are brought here by council rangers. If they are microchipped, it is much easier for us to find their owners and reunite them.”

The Sydney Cats and Dogs Home also provides any immediate vet treatments arriving animals may need, along with general health screenings. 

“That includes routine blood tests, and a range of health screenings for things like heart disease, dental disease and arthritis,” says Jackson. “We want new owners to be aware of any health issues the pet may have, and any special care they’re going to need. This tends to be a commitment that comes with senior pets. People may also be worried about the shorter lifespan of an older animal.” 

…is a friend indeed

Many find adopting an older pet like Chance very fulfilling.

While there are challenges that come with adopting a senior pet, there are many benefits too. Jackson says that the fulfillment that comes with saving an older pet is a driver for some, while others simply prefer the maturity of a senior animal.

“Older pets are usually more settled and already trained,” she says. “You don’t need to go through that difficult puppy stage. Older dogs also tend not to require as much exercise as young dogs—many are satisfied with just a short walk. This can be a great match for more elderly or less mobile people who want the companionship of a pet but are not be able to provide the exercise and training a younger dog needs.”

Adam and Natalie Goodes can certainly testify to the joy a senior pet can bring to a household. Chance is thriving in her new home, and has found a new lease on life thanks to her doting owners.  

“She is no longer shy but a happy-go-lucky, much-loved member of the Goodes family—people often think she’s a puppy,” says Adam. 

“Her love is unconditional,” Natalie concludes. “We can’t get enough of her little butt wiggles every time one of us walks in the door!” ′

The Senior Pet Project costs around $150,000 per year to run and relies on public donations. Please visit www.sydneydogsandcatshome.org/donate to help support it. 

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