Friday, August 13, 2010


I think I’ve mentioned that I love music and their lyrics as well as my love of quotations. The title of today’s blog article is from an old song that Kenny Rogers made popular many years ago. Aww…….…the genus of a song writer’s quick wit and imagination!

Several months ago I wrote about taking care of ourselves as we hit our senior years. We are all concerned about our aging dog’s health, but if we are not healthy ourselves taking care of a breed like the German Shepherd Dog can prove very challenging indeed. I bring this subject up again because of an e-mail letter that I read on one of the rescue groups that I send this blog to. A woman wrote that she didn’t feel that she could take care of a rescue like the German Shepherd Dog. She felt she was too old to take care of a dog. I think she said that she was 60 years old or in her early 60’s. So she was being honest and this is how she felt. Well many people wrote in response about this subject of the mature person taking care of this breed. I think everyone who wrote thought that the woman’s age should not have been a deciding factor about taking care of a rescued dog. Some went on to tell of many wonderful people in their advanced senior years happily and capably taking care of a dog or two or even more. But one must remember that not everyone’s circumstances are alike.

So I thought I would re-visit this subject again. Like the breed that we all love, some of us age better than others. While we may read of the 80 year old woman who just graduated from college or the 72 year old man that just ran the Boston marathon, those numbers are fewer than what the average person of this age is doing. Few (but some) may say that they are feeling better now than they ever did when they were in their thirties. However, this is just not the normal confession of a person over sixty.

Taking care of and raising a German Shepherd Dog is work……period! It is not all fun and games. It’s not just about throwing a ball to “Shep” a couple of times a week or teaching him how to sit or roll over. It’s a lot more and then some. Because each of our dogs like ourselves is individuals, they learn differently, they react differently, they age differently, and the one constant is that they challenge us differently. It’s just like kids. Some kids never give you any problems and are a “dream come true” when raising them. Then there are those that keep you down on your knees visiting God in prayer more then you ever did in your entire lifetime. Well it’s the same thing with raising a German Shepherd Dog. They all might be labeled a German Shepherd, but they’re all not cut out from the same mold.

In an ideal world, we humans will age well. We won’t be troubled by arthritis or other crippling physical and mental disabilities. We will not have had suffered a car accident or an accident on the job. Depression will not have immobilized us. Our life’s partner will remain healthy as well and we’ll both take that trip to the “pearly white gates” of Heaven at the same time. Our dogs will live to be a ripe old age of 15 or 16 with never a moan or a groan because arthritis is keeping them from doing the things that they love. His hearing will be as sharp as when he was a six month old puppy. He’ll eat well until the day he dies and he’ll slip away to the “Rainbow Bridge” while peacefully sleeping on his soft warm bed. Yes this is in an ideal world!

But what about reality? How does it work in the real world? What about those of us who don’t age well? What about our dogs that don’t fair any better? Maybe the sixty year old woman has all she can do to get out of bed in the morning. We’re not walking in her shoes…….or moving around in her body. Maybe our grandmother doesn’t look a day over fifty, but this woman may feel several years over seventy. We all know what we are capable of doing. What feels right for one person may not feel right for another person.

Because all German Shepherds are not created equal……because they all come from different pedigrees……..and if you are adopting a rescue dog…….we don’t know how he was raised. Some in this breed make wonderful house dogs and you wouldn’t even know that they are there. Well except when you want to use the bathroom and you notice a shadow following you. But let’s face it, some dogs make excellent house dogs and others do not. Case in point, most of you know that I own three bitches. I own the mother dog and her two daughters. The mother dog is my constant companion as she’s my house dog. Her two daughters are the “Wild Childs!” Would they make good house dogs? No, no and again no. Oh they’re in the house a few times a day and when they are, its total chaos’s. Their mother was very easy to train. Her daughters are much wilder than she ever was. “Bu” can never sit still and her sister “Jess” imitates everything that she does. Now my house dog would be great living with a senior citizen. Just give her love 24 hours a day and feed her and she’ll be happy and content. Would her daughters be good companions for a senior citizen? NO! They might put her in an early grave!

Another thing to consider is the financial responsibility for the senior citizen especially if she’s living on a fixed income. Taking care of dogs is expensive. Some are wondering how they’re going to feed themselves no less a dependent animal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all people over sixty have one foot in the grave! Not at all. Many people are healthy and strong and have taken good care of themselves and are aging very well. But there may come the day that age does get in their way and I don’t care how well someone ages, he isn’t what he used to be. Each step becomes more calculated. A dog not only needs his basic needs to be met, food, water and shelter, but he needs a fair amount of exercise to keep him healthy and strong. If the human isn’t up to that then both of them may suffer.

On the other hand, a dog can be the greatest gift for a senior for many reasons. A dog can give the aging owner a reason to get up out of bed in the morning to begin with. The dog can provide comfort and companionship to an otherwise lonely person that may have said good bye to some important people in her life. A dog can provide hours of entertainment and laughter to someone that might need a good laugh once in awhile. Taking care of a dog can take one’s mind off of her own problems and help soothe a weary soul.

So not everyone’s conditions are the same. Some age well. Others do not. Some are financially secure. Others are not. Before you take on the added responsibility of a dog, check out “what conditions your conditions are in!”

Taken from the Audio CD..."21 NUMBER ONES"..........The gravel-and-grits voice of Kenny Rogers ultimately came to define the "Urban Cowboy" era of pop excess, even as the earlier "Lucille" and "The Gambler" were some of the most galvanizing story songs in country music's history. Looking back at this body of hits, it's easy to poke fun at the treacley "You Decorated My Life" or wince at the cheesy string arrangements on "Through the Years." It's also natural to wish Rogers had never heard of Sheena Easton, his misguided duet partner on "We've Got Tonight," and recorded more with the soulful, sad Dottie West ("Every Time Two Fools Collide") and the randy Dolly Parton ("Islands in the Stream"). (A bonus track, "Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer," pairs him with old pal Kim Carnes.) As the years went by, Rogers got fatter, lazier, and more content to make crappy TV movies and wallow in the flaccid sentimentality of adult contemporary pop ("Buy Me a Rose"). He also got smug--the worst of sins for a man in his business. But behind the microphone, he always knew how to make even the hoariest of lyrics resonate with feeling. And at his peak, he was the perfect male country superstar, equal parts swagger and sweet, sweet promise. --Alanna Nash

My rating: The German Shepherd Dog is right for everyone: (1 - 4), Senior Citizen raising the German Shepherd Dog: (1 - 4)


  1. Good topic. I'm 69, live in the mountains and our GSD's require daily exercise of at least 1 1/2 - 2miles per day. Yes, that is EACH day. They are excellent house dogs and get constant love and affection. Making sure they get the physical and mental exercise they require means that I stay more healthy in the process.
    With surgery on the horizon my wife who is also fit will see that they get the needed exercise while I recover. Hopefully after a few days I will be out walking them down the road again.
    Having helped a rescue with the adoption applications I have found many older folks with rose colored glasses on. They see themselves as fit and able to meet a GSD's needs. Reality does not always see them as they see themselves. It is simply not fair to acquire or adopt a GSD if you lack the ability to properly care for it. Going to a dog park and letting the dog run loose for 15 minutes is not sufficient training or exercise. Most rescues can match a GSD to an older person but you would be surprised how they all want a young GSD or puppy. 'Reality check here' - you could be in your late 80's when the dog becomes elderly itself. It may have as many physical ailments as you plan ahead.
    You don't have to be a certain age to die and that can happen anytime. If something were to happen to me I know my wife would care for our dogs and make sure they had plenty of exercise and food even if she had to go without. She knows she can expect the same from me. Age should not be a hindrance to adopt but realistic evaluation of condition should be. Taking on a GSD should be a lifetime commitment. After you consider all factors if there is any doubt in your mind, don't adopt. You need to be 100% committed to any dog you adopt. Maybe being a foster would be better. You get the benefits without the lifetime commitment. That is more like rent a dog. While the dog is waiting for a forever home it has a loving and caring environment to live in. It requires all the responsibility in caring for a GSD but lacks the lifetime commitment. You get the benefits and know you have put a dog on the path to happiness.
    I would agree that folks should take a totally realistic look at what their condition is. When you adopt or acquire a GSD it is for a lifetime. That just can't be stressed enough. You need to look ahead several years and see if it is right for the GSD. If you have trouble getting out of your recliner now, it most likely won't be better in 5 years, I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is on a GSD when the owner dies or can no longer take care of the dog. More than not the dog doesn't understand what is happening. Look outside yourself and do the best for the GSD. No one knows when they will die but as you get older your candle certainly is burning closer to the base than a 25 year old.
    Again, good topic...

  2. It's good hearing from someone like you Bruce that has helped with rescues and dealing with the people that are involved with them. Many people have good hearts and want to help, but sometimes they find themselves getting in over their heads!