The moment we met Odie, we knew he was the dog for us.
In fact, I fell in love with this sweet little beagle as soon as he laid his head on my lap and looked at me with his big, brown eyes.
My husband and I had talked about adopting a dog for almost as long as we had known each other. But after nearly six years of talking about it, we finally decided it was time to bring one home. Still, we hadn’t actually expected to find one so quickly — but there he was at New York’s Broadway Barks pet adoption event. And we certainly never expected that the dog we picked would be an older, former medical research beagle.
In fact, we had assumed that we would bring home a young dog — maybe even a puppy. But out of all the adoptable dogs that we met that day, from goofy bulldogs to beautiful cocker spaniels to excitable puppies of all colors and sizes, none of them felt quite right to us.
Odie was the one — and we both knew it immediately.
We adopted Odie from the BeFreegle Foundation, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates former research dogs. He came home with us one month before his seventh birthday.
While it varies depending on breed or size, dogs over age 7 are often considered “senior” because at this age, they can begin to show signs of aging. Plus, given Odie’s background, it’s possible that he could have a slightly shorter life — although because of a nondisclosure agreement signed by his rescuers, we cannot know that for sure.
All we knew when we brought him home was that he had received a clean bill of health from the vet, he was up to date on his vaccines, and, most importantly, he was deemed ready to join our family. We were committed and ready to love him for as long as he would be with us — no matter how long that might be.
When we brought Odie home, we were told that he would most likely be a little shy.
After all, lots of things were new for him. He was in a new city with new humans and even things like walking on a leash or playing with toys were new and foreign to him.
But Odie surprised us all with just how quickly he settled into his new life.
Within a week, he had begun to wag his tail when we talked to him, he quickly conquered going up and down the five flights of stairs to our walk-up apartment, he started playing with his favorite squeaky toys, and he became comfortable walking around the block with us on a leash.
Within a month, we were comfortable taking him to the dog park, where he could meet other dogs. And although he liked saying “hello” to the other dogs, he seemed a little ambivalent about actually playing with them, preferring to sit and watch all the others play fetch.
Today, he still doesn’t love loud noises — especially motorcycles or trucks — and he can be a little shy around big groups of new people. But other than that, he’s pretty much a normal dog. He’s silly, he loves treats, and he’s very calm around cats, other dogs, or children and he’s well-behaved — or, at least, usually…
I had worried that an older dog might be stubborn when it came to training, but it turns out that old dogs can learn new tricks.
Odie was eager to respond to commands, especially “up” or “spin,” when treats were involved.
And while he does like taking lots of naps (who doesn’t?), his age hasn’t really held him back at all. In fact, he’s quite happy to go camping with us and take long hikes in national parks. (He even has his own travel Instagram account!)
Adopting an older dog into our family was one of the best decisions we ever made.
While we may not have known Odie since he was a puppy, we get to know him in the best years of his life — and that has been rewarding.
Odie is going to be 9 this year. But aside from being a little stiff when he wakes up in the morning, he’s still very healthy and happy. We feel lucky to have him, and it means a lot to know that we have made a good life for him in his older years.
There are lots of older dogs like Odie in shelters all across the country, and some of them end up spending more time in shelters waiting for a home than younger animals. Luckily, there are also lots of shelters and rescue groups that are working hard to get the word out about how great these animals really are. Plus, they are always looking for fosters or new families that are ready to adopt.
While adopting an older, former research dog wasn’t what we thought we were looking for, our laid-back pup is perfect for our family.