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Man & Woman's Best Friend - Especially Later in Life March 7, 2017

Dogs have been "Man's Best Friend" for thousands of years. Dogs provide warnings and protection, help to hunt and to herd, and are growing ever more useful as service dogs. Service dogs each serve a special purpose, whether to assist the visually impaired, to provide comfort to sufferers of PTSD, or even to warn of oncoming medical crises. According to PAWS, a reputable nonprofit organization that specializes in helping to rescue and rehabilitate animals, stress level, blood pressure, and the risk of depression all tend to decrease when time is spent with a furry friend. Today, dogs are perhaps best-known and best-loved as four-legged companions to people in all stages of their lives. For seniors, dogs offer special kinds of love and support, can alleviate boredom and anxiety, and can even improve health.

What age of dog do you want to add to your life? Puppies are playful and cute but need a great deal of training, care, and attention as well as several trips to the vet for immunizations and other medical needs. In contrast, middle-aged dogs already show their temperaments, are already house-trained, and should need only yearly or bi-yearly trips to the vet. Older dogs are generally calmer, and adopting an older dog is often the best choice for older humans as well.

The "best" breed for you depends on your lifestyle, and every breed has both "good" and "bad" dogs. All of us want healthy dogs, and most older adults seek pets with calm temperaments that like to be petted. Beyond those basic criteria, would a large or medium dog fit in your dwelling, or are you particularly looking for a small dog, one that is easy to transport? Do you want a dog who will keep you active with a daily walk, or one that will be happiest when sitting by you most of the time? Do you want a dog that does not shed? Do you want a companion that will be with you most of the time? Are you looking more for a watchdog friend or merely a cuddly one? Do you have young grandchildren who love to visit but who are not always gentle? Among the many dog breeds recommended for seniors, each of the following are suitable for some, but not all, older adults. Each breed has its advocates!

  • Beagles are known for their even tempers and gentle disposition and do not need much exercise - but they can get into trouble if left alone too long. 
  • Pugs love to play, and demand more attention than some other breeds. 
  • Cocker spaniels are generally easy going, but need frequent exercise. 
  • Schnauzers are eager to please and love their human companions, but also require daily exercise and regular grooming.
  • Poodles are generally easy to train, relatively clean, and low shedding.
  • Chihuahuas are good if you want a small dog with a big bark to warn you of anyone coming. 
  • Terriers are very good dogs for older adults; each type of terrier displays its own traits. 
  • Two lively terrier breeds, the Welsh and Irish Terriers, do not shed but their coats require regular maintenance.
  • Yorkshire Terriers are relatively low energy dogs that love to snuggle with their human companion, but they also require regular grooming. 
  • Two particularly protective terrier breeds are the Scottish and the Boston Terrier. 
  • Several of the small spritz breeds that are recommended for older adults include the American Eskimo Dog, the Shiba Inu, and the Japanese Spitz.  

Breeds such as those listed above can be a great fit for older owners, and purebreds can be predictable in nature and temperament. Once they outlive their prime time in the show ring, well-trained purebred adult show dogs are often available at low price. Of course mixed-breed dogs often become the best pets. Adult dogs, purebred and otherwise, might be obtained from people who have to give them up for reasons such as military transfers. Perhaps the most common source of dogs of any age is your local animal shelter. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States every year. Adopting shelter dogs generally costs substantially less. Often the cost of spaying/neutering, first vaccinations, and sometimes even microchipping is included in the adoption cost. Local sources of pet adoptions in the Pensacola area include the Pensacola Humane Society, the Escambia County Animal Shelter, and the Hotel for Dogs and Cats.

However your new companion comes into your life, there are several places around Pensacola to hang out together including these dog-friendly places:

  • Bayview Dog Park and Beach
  • Navy Point Walking Trail
  • Bay Bluffs Park
  • Naval Live Oaks (part of Gulf Islands National Seashore)
  • Pensacola Bay Brewery
  • Gulf Coast Brewery
  • Jaco's
  • Hopjacks
  • The Cottage Cafe
  • Red Fish Blue Fish
  • Pensacola Beach Dog Beach

Pensacola also has several canine-friendly events each year. Coming soon, Gulf Coast Healthcare's 5th Annual A Bark to Remember will take place on Saturday, April 1 from 10 am to 3 pm at the Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park. This event raises funds and awareness for the local Alzheimer's Association and emphasizes ending the disease through the love of dogs. In addition, the Pensacola Humane Society will be hosting their Paws on Palafox 3K Dog Walk on Saturday, May 6. This event raises funds to help provide low-cost or no-cost spay and neuter surgery to thousands of pets in Pensacola. 

While dogs have been the focus of this article, let's not forget about cats and kittens in your quest to find a furry friend. Cats tend to require less maintenance than dogs because they are more independent and they also bathe themselves. They are generally smaller and eat less. You won' t need to housebreak them; just set up a litter box and they figure out how to use it naturally. Cats are also beneficial around the house to capture or at least scare away many critters including rodents and insects.

Furry companions offer many benefits, especially later in our lives. A furry friend in your house can improve your health both mentally and physically. The dogs featured with this article are up for adoption at the Pensacola Humane Society.


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