Boarding The Old

Our advice is to board the old dog as few times as possible. Old dogs become depressed and refuse to eat when placed in strange surroundings. Veterinarians and boarding kennel operators are not too happy to take an old dog for boarding. Their reluctance is understandable: an old dog that refuses to eat and pines away to the extent of emaciation, isn't good for reputations. Too many owners have accused veterinarians and boarding kennel operators of starving and mistreating their old dogs.

The writer has had considerable experience with this situation. As manager of the Bide-A-Wee Home for Animals in New York, he supervised a special boarding and "pension" section. Not too many old dogs were boarded, but the "pension" kennels had as many as fifty old-timers on a daily basis. It took all of our ingenuity and dog know-how to get these old "pensioners" to eat. None of them was ill; they were just getting old—many of them 10 years or more. We had to resort to special foods, fancy cooking, intravenous feeding—even having the old dogs fed by women. Many dogs have been fed by women all their lives and will refuse to eat when fed by men.

It may be asked at this point why these old dogs weren't put to sleep instead of being boarded out or pensioned off. Well, there were some good reasons. First, Bide-A-Wee has the policy of never destroying dogs unless incurably ill. Second, many of the owners of these old dogs were forced by housing laws or family circumstances to give up their old dogs.

They just couldn't bring themselves around to having the old dogs put to sleep. So, in lieu of euthanasia, these people were happy to pay a yearly fee to keep their old dogs at Bide-A-Wee where they got excellent care and medical attention.

And this brings us up to the question of euthanasia, or putting the old dog to sleep. Should you have the dog put to sleep when he gets too old? The question is one with which the writer grappled almost every day of his six years as manager of Bide-A-Wee. There are too many facets to the question for a pat answer. The decision is yours alone —no veterinarian will tell you that the dog must be put to sleep.

Why not look at it this way: if the old dog is in fair health for his age and it is possible for you to keep him, there is no need for euthanasia. But if he is infirm and seriously ill, possibly in pain and misery, then perhaps the kind thing to do would be to have him put to sleep.

We are aware of the controversial nature of euthanasia. But we can only point to Nature's way of taking care of the situation. In the wild dog packs (and with other animals), the old are never allowed to go on. When an old dog becomes infirm and goes down, he is killed by the rest of the pac k. And while this may sound like a specious argument, certainly the old dog doesn't expect more than to be put away when he becomes decrepit and infirm. But—as we said before—you must make the choice.

If you do decide to have the old dog put to sleep, have the veterinarian administer euthanasia. We can assure you from long experience that the dog will slip peacefully into a long sleep and never wake up.


American Kennel Club, The Complete Dog Book. New York: Garden City Press, 1961.

Baker, J. A., "See Key to Bitch Immunity and Pup Vaccinations in Blood Test," Gaines Dog Research Progress, Fall, 1958.

Baker, J. A., et al., Development and Expectations of the New Vaccines. New York: Gaines Dog Research Center, 1957.

Deutsch, H. J., and McCoy, J. J., The Dog Owner's Handbook. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1954.

Edgar, S. E., Jr., "Dogs in the Sight of the Law," Gaines Dog Research Progress, Fall, i960.

Evans, H. E., "A Dog Comes into Being," Gaines Dog Research Progress, Fall, 1956.

Hayes, F. A., "Canine Ascarids and Related Problems," Gaines Dog Research Progress, Winter, 1959-60.

Kirk, R. W., "Puppies: Prenatal Care and Pediatrics," Gaines Dog Research Progress, Fall, 1959.

Leedham, C, Care of the Dog. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1961.

Lorenz, K. Z., King Solomon's Ring. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1952.

McCoy, J. J., "Should You Keep a Dog in the City?" Bide-A-Wee Quarterly, 1961, 10, 22-27.

Miller, H., The Common Sense Book of Puppy and Dog Care. New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1956.

Montague, A., "Origin of the Domestication of the Dog," Science, 1942, 96, 111-12.

Morgan, C. T., "Introduction to Psychology," Chapter 23, Animal Behavior. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1956.

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