Hero Pets and People: November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

In America during November we celebrate many things: Veteran’s Day; Thanksgiving; National Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month; and Hero Dogs (although I’d like to say “Hero Pets”!)

A few weeks ago the American Humane Association honored dogs and their handlers during the National Hero Dogs Awards, celebrating dogs in the line of duty for law enforcement and the military as well as those canines assisting the blind, the disabled, the autistic, the infirmed, and many others.

Hero pets exist everywhere. Many of us have heard stories about dogs who save people from fire, rattlesnakes, intruders, drowning, and other dangers. But, it’s not always dogs who help or save their humans. Cats, too, have done heroic deeds, including the cat who helped save a young boy from a dog attack (see video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6GQR3Ym5M8).

hero dog_911Those of us who are pet lovers enjoy an inspiring hero pet tale, and there’s no doubt that the Dog Hero Awards inspire people. Yet, on an average day more than 9,000 animals are euthanized every day in animal shelters across America. Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, parakeets and many other animals die each day while thousands of others are rescued from kill-shelters, puppy and cat mills, and other death traps. Oftentimes many of these animals are older and have been used as breeders for people seeking “easy money” through the propagation of litters. National Mill Dog Rescue specifically rescues puppy mill dogs, both young and old, that have been confined in deplorable conditions; volunteers travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, to bring into safety and love dogs that are neglected and used, many of whom have never had the pads of their feet touch green grass; these dogs are groomed, loved, cuddled, oftentimes for the first time. These rescuers, many of them volunteers, are the true heroes, saving animals from exploitation, neglect, even danger.

The animals, too, are heroes. Scared, de-valued, uncertain, they learn to play, to trust, to love, teaching us humans the acts of forgiveness and courage. Such was the case of Scarlett, a mother cat who risked her life five times to save her babies and afterwards found a new loving home.


Risking life, saving life – such is the ‘game of life.’ Whether a hero on the battlefield, as many of our military men and women are, a hero rescuing abandoned, neglected, or unwanted pets as are those involved with animal rescue and welfare, or those creatures who save their ‘families,’ both humans and other animals, from traumas such as fires, drownings, mental and physical disabilities, or intruders … our heroes need to be recognized, honored, and celebrated. People who adopt pets, especially those who adopt the older, infirmed, or disabled, are also heroes. November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month. Each of us can be a hero to a senior pet in need of a new, loving home. I’m grateful I responded to the call when I Cody_PlaidBlanketadopted Cody, a 10-year-old cocker spaniel used as a stud dog then tossed away by his owner after he could no longer “perform” for profits sought. Now, nearly 17, Cody has experienced several health issues, and we never know what the day will bring, but one thing I do know: this older, sweet-natured boy has brought many moments of joy! I also had a cat named Ama who lived with me for nearly 16 years, crossing the Rainbow Bridge at nearly 19 years of age — elegant, even-tempered, delightful, this girl gave me many moments of joy, love, and beauty in the 16 years we shared this life. Although I adopted her at a young age, we shared many “senior moments” later in life … and I wouldn’t trade those experiences and years for anything!

There are many benefits to adopting an older pet, including (1) most are already house/litterbox trained, and (2) what you see (in size and personality) is what you get. Yet, many older animals are relinquished for various reasons and therefore also euthanized each day. You can be a hero and save a life by adopting a senior pet this month!

soldier and flagJust as our military men and women are heroes, fighting, often struggling, and dying to keep the rest of us free and safe, so, too, can we ‘regular folk’ be heroes by saving the lives of animals around the globe. Adopt, volunteer, educate, advocate – step up and be a hero today! The love, dedication, and truthfully the actual life of an animal, is in your hands… mine, too. Let’s be the advocate heroes for animals in need today!

Gayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for various rescue groups and she donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. She is currently venturing out of her comfort zone and writing a romance story for her first crack at National Novel Writing Month (a romance story with pet rescue twist!) She also intends to publish Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice – Lessons I Learned from a Blind Dog and Other Canines I’ve Known later this month. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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19 thoughts on “Hero Pets and People: November is Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month

  1. We’ve always adopted animals from shelters (when I lived with my parents) or taken in strays from a litter and had the mom fixed.

    Now, with my husband, we adopt from shelters as well. When we got our second cat (to be a companion to our first cat who we adopted a few months before) we specifically wanted an older cat. I fell in love with Pickeral the moment I saw him. We found out he’d been in the shelter for months. No one wanted to adopt him because he was eight and everyone went in wanting young cats. He’s been the best companion to all of us, except when he’s chasing his sister around the house. 🙂 He had some health issues but now that he’s on medication he’s a changed cat. He was grumpy before. Now he’s happy and runs around. Loves to sit on my husband’s lap as often as possible. I think he would stay there all day if he could.

    Everyone else who turned him down don’t know what they’re missing but I”m glad they did. Because now we have an awesome cat that still has a lot of years left to give us love.


    1. Thank you, Abbie, for stopping by to comment — yes, pets are amazing, especially when given the opportunity to shine. Mary dog and I will be at the Buffalo Senior Center on Nov. 14th (unless there’s a blizzard!) to showcase some of the great lessons we can learn from pets and the wonderful ways they bond with people. Perhaps you and Bonnie or someone else from Sheridan can join us!


  2. Most of my pets, as an adult, have been rescue animals, they never made it to the shelters. They never would have. My Samantha, who lived to be 24, was abandoned on the loading docks of a large shopping center. Now I have my two who keep me sane. Pets are priceless. Some people cannot have pets due to living conditions can help in other ways. The way we treat our animals is an indication of who we are. That you love animals and work for their betterment says a lot about you. I’m pleased you are my friend. Doris


    1. Doris, you are SO SWEET! thank you for the kind comments and for taking in kitties who needed someone loving and appreciative of them. May you all enjoy a loving, long life together for many years to come!


  3. Since moving in with Sharon and her father, I’ve learned that I also moved in with her three cats — Sandy, a 16-year-old long-haired yellow boy; Indiana Jones, a 17-year-old gray-furred boy who still has a wild streak in him (although he like to sit on my lap), and Indy’s mother, Blackie, an 18-year old black cat in bad health (mouth and teeth problems, but her age makes surgery problematic). They have adopted me. I think they instinctively know I’m a “cat” guy. My latest cats: Bobby Girl, who I had from 1988 to 2003, and Tessir Boy, who I had from 2003 to 2011 (sadly, he died way too soon from diabetes complications).


    1. I love your cat tales/tails, Mike — thank you for sharing them! And, especially knowing you have “seniors” to look after you now melts my heart! My cats (yes, I am a cat and dog person!) are sisters that are about 9 now, so their senior years are on the horizon. I hope they live as long as Ama did, although she suffered a lot the final year or two and that’s ALWAYS hard, something we’re going through with Cody now. However long we have them, they are a blessing, I do believe. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


  4. Only one time did we buy from a breeder – as a present for our son. The rest of our house pets have been give-aways/rescues. Our current puppy-cat (acts more like a dog than a cat) is 15 now and starting to have some problems. We’ll certainly miss her bedtime and time-to-get-up reminders when she goes. And “the paw” when she wants attention.

    Thanks for your good work in educating people and helping the animals.


    1. I so enjoyed your cat tale, Kate! Yes, it’s difficult to watch them age and hard to let them go, but what joy our pets bring to us! Thank you for your comments and kind words and I hope you enjoy your kitty for many more years!


  5. I wish that there were no pets in shelters but that’s not realistic. It’s very admirable that people like yourself, Gayle, invest such a lot of time to finding carers for them. Wherever an animal is acquired from, it takes dedication and love to make sure they know they are loved and cared for. I see the rewards my daughter gets from her two beautiful dogs- but Ialso know that a lot of caring training has gone into makling them such well-trained and lovely animals.


  6. My mom had a little fox terrier, old when we got him, but she loved him so much, first dog she ever let inside her house. The rest of our dogs were hunting dogs. As we were leaving our house one day, he kept acting up and digging at the back of the couch cushions. Mom said, “He doesn’t act this way, he’s trying to tell me something.” She went over and raised the cushions and a blast of smoke soared to the ceiling. We’d had company, a young man who smoked and a spark must of fell from his cigarette. Anyway, Andy saved our house that day.

    My Siamese cat was older and he came from the shelter. That’s a whole other story, he bought us pleasure for a few years. I named him St. Nick, because he was my Christmas present. I taped him all the time. Why, I don’t know, because he never did anything but move from spot to spot to sleep. LOL

    Thanks for making people aware of pets in need and for sharing your stories and blessings. Love your caring spirit. Cher’ley


    1. Thank you, Cher’ley for sharing your stories — I love “pets help people” pieces such as your Andy. I think pets help us in many subtle ways, too, if nothing else by sharing life with us and being our friends/companions … even sleeping cats can do that, and I’m sure yours did! I enjoy being a “voice for the voiceless” but there are many, many others who do so much more than me. But, I do believe every one can do something, even a small something, because it all makes a difference to someone somewhere. thanks for your comments and kind words!


  7. We have always gone to a shelter when we wanted to add a new dog to the family. Skipping the housebreaking chore is reason enough to adopt an older dog. They also bring manners, tricks, and love into their new home. As always I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.


    1. I so agree! I don’t do puppies because I lack the time. I wish more people researched and realized the responsibility of an animal, in particular the young ones, instead of buying or adopting because “it’s cute!” I’m thankful for the many responsible pet owners out there … because there are many more who aren’t. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  8. Thanks for a great post. I hope to have a back yard again soon, and I’d to have another dog. An older one would be fine. When my husband and I moved in together, I had three cats. He’d never had a pet. He loved them all, but one fell madly in love with him, and he returned the emotion. So for the next six years she practically ran his life. I had gotten the first two from a veterinarian who had taken them in as strays. The third, at about seven weeks, had been dumped in a field near my house and when I walked by, she ran out of some bushes and crawled up my bluejeans leg. I’ve had a zillion pets over the years and never paid for one–most were adults, generally older, that strayed up from where they’d been abandoned–and I think their love for us was mixed with gratitude (the dogs anyway; the cats expected us to be grateful to them for staying).


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