Developing a routine, in a totally unstructured situation, like retirement, can be difficult as well as necessary. If you are like me, you require a routine to keep your priorities in order. My annual holiday typically begins with a plan for completing at least one relatively major project around the house. Since I have two weeks off, this would seem doable. Except, since I have an entire two weeks to do as I please, I am more than willing to procrastinate on my project while I enjoy the freedom of following any and all distractions that come up. By the end of my holiday, I have been on a couple of short trips, enjoyed taco and pool parties with the grandchildren, read at least a couple of books, and spent hours wandering around Home Depot for no particular reason. Meanwhile, our cupboards are still disorganized or our guestroom still needs a fresh coat of paint. Which bring me to the importance of having pets.
My husband and I have always had pets in our home. I came with a dog named Scraps and Dan came with a cat named Hank. Shortly thereafter, Scraps had to be put down and we both agreed we did not really need or want another dog. We lived in a small house, wanted the freedom to travel and we both worked fulltime so getting another dog just wasn’t practical. Until, my husband worked a few of his regular night shifts. Older homes make disturbing sounds and cats really could care less. The Hell’s Angels could be coming in the back door and Hank would be curled up sleeping or silently prowling around, up to his own devices. So, we got Casey. For unknown reasons, Hank had a stroke the next day and had to be put down. We definitely did not need another cat! Until, my daughter brought over a tiny blind kitten desperately needing a home. So, we got Suzie. Suzie was a sweetheart but when she was about twelve years old, her health deteriorated and we had to put her down. Casey seemed rather lonely, but she was ok and I had just suffered a major health issue which was in part due to my allergy to cats. We decided we definitely were not getting another cat. Until my boss had to put down his Golden Retriever, Jody. There are not enough words to describe how thoroughly heartbroken he was. At this point, Dan and Casey were inseparable. Casey was an amazing dog – smart, empathetic and loyal. She was aging and seeing how my boss was hit by the loss of his Jody, I decided to get pro-active and convinced my husband we should get a back-up dog. So we got Kat. (Who is a dog – a Cavelier King Charles, to be precise). She did not lessen the pain of losing our beautiful Casey a couple of years ago, but she has definitely made a place for herself in our hearts and in our home.
With retirement approaching, we have discussed getting another dog. Our pets have been invaluable over the years – for love, companionship and security – and for holding us to somewhat of a routine, even during holidays. Pets do not care if you are willing to sleep late, they eat at six a.m. and will harass you until that happens for them. Supper is the same. You may be willing to wait – your dog is not – or at least, our dog is not. Dogs do not care if you want to curl up in front of a television after supper, they want to go for a walk. Pets have a routine and they will hold you to it, which is a good thing when you are in an unstructured situation.
Chances are we will be bringing another dog (or dogs) into our home. We may adopt an older dog, missing the adorable puppy stage and the extra responsibility that involves. We may even choose to foster, instead of committing to a long-term relationship with one dog, depending on how we are holding up. But, I definitely believe we will have a dog in our life for years to come – filling our home with love and helping to keep us on a schedule which includes a healthy dose of exercise and fresh air and enough responsibility to help us feel needed.