Dina Lee, a longtime volunteer at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista, adopted Bitsy, a longhaired chihuahua mix, in 2018.

Adopting an animal offers many benefits for people over 50

By Bridgette M. Redman

Dina Lee knows that a lot of people feel they’ve rescued a dog when they adopt from a shelter, but she insists it is really the animal that rescues them.

Lee, a longtime volunteer at Wallis Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista, adopted Bitsy, a longhaired chihuahua mix, in 2018. She fell in love with the dog when he first arrived at PetSpace, but she wasn’t able to adopt him at the time because she had a 17-year-old chihuahua that wasn’t interested in having a companion.

When Bitsy returned to the shelter six months later, Lee knew that she couldn’t let him go again. She could go on forever about the benefits adopting a pet has for older adults, especially those that live alone like she does. Not only does she gain companionship with Bitsy, but the dog helps her exercise and have more connection with her neighbors.

“Since I have her, I have to go out and walk her every day, even if I don’t feel like it,” Lee said. “It sounds like a chore, but it’s actually not. I love walking her around and we see the same people every day. It gave me contact, especially during the pandemic, with people and made me more sociable.”

Lee said she came to look forward to meeting up with other people that were out walking their dogs or going about their usual routine. She said they know Bitsy by name and sometimes have treats for her dog.

“I cannot say enough good things about having a pet for people over 50,” Lee said. “I am still working, but this could be the best thing for someone that is retired. It works both ways —for the animals and the human beings. The pandemic has made people very lonely and isolated. Of course you can’t substitute an animal with human contact, but I don’t know how I would have survived working from home and lockdown without her.”

Lee is also a big advocate of adopting an older or senior dog rather than a puppy.

“A lot of people want a puppy and I went through that with my first dog and am never going to get a puppy again,” Lee said. “(With an older dog) you don’t have to go through the whole puppy phase of the biting and the destruction. I have adopted two dogs from shelter and I didn’t have to potty train them.”

As a volunteer at the shelter, Lee sees that older dogs are often overlooked, but she strongly encourages people, especially those that are older, to consider an adult dog, especially if they are no longer physically active.

“Seniors are not going to be running with the dog,” Lee said. “You have to consider the activity level of the dog. Bitsy is my perfect match because our activity levels are similar. It really depends on your lifestyle and where you live.”

Lee pointed out that some dogs do well in smaller homes like an apartment or townhouse while more active dogs need more space like a yard or an area where they can run. While she strongly encourages people to adopt pets, she stressed that when people adopt them, it is for their lifetime and shouldn’t be done on a whim. People that travel or that are thinking of moving in the near future need to keep that in mind and know what they’ll do with their animal.

“I can’t say enough good things about adopting a dog, but what saddens me the most is when animals are returned because something went wrong — they didn’t think about the future or the animal got sick and they can’t financially take care of it,” Lee said.

Lee looks forward to getting up every day and being with Bitsy and meeting her needs. It gives her a sense of well-being.
“Yeah, I rescued Bitsy, but really Bitsy rescued me,” Lee said.

Wallis Annenberg PetSpace
12005 Bluff Creek Dr., Playa Vista