Almost 17 months ago Bailey joined our family. After being dogless for several years, considering all the consequences, and finding a reputable breeder, we made the move. We have absolutely no regrets. She has made our satisfying retirement even more complete.
That being said, adding a dog, or any pet except maybe a pet rock, is a step not to be taken lightly. A pet comes with certain responsibilities, costs, and lifestyle changes that should be addressed upfront. Unlike most purchases, you are making a commitment that may last 15 years or more.
Not long ago the American Heart Association reviewed studies exploring the health benefits of dog ownership. What they found is that having a dog is associated with lower blood pressure, better cholesterol, and less chance for obesity since dogs require walking on a regular basis.
What are the other positive reasons to consider adding a dog to your life? While not an exhaustive list consider these possibilities:
Unconditional affection. I hesitate to use the word, love, since a dog is not really capable of an emotion that approximates human love. But, when your dog greets you at the door with his whole body wiggling in excitement at your return, it is impossible to not smile and feel good.
Bailey is a master of this. If Betty and I are gone for 30 minutes or three hours it doesn't matter, we are greeted as we come through the garage door as if we'd been away for weeks. Her joy is contagious.
Cure for loneliness. For many single seniors, a dog is a constant companion that makes a house or apartment seem less lonely. A pet can help socialization, too. They becomes natural conversation ice-breakers and conversation starters while walking the dog in a park or neighborhood.
This is not a big issue in our house, though there are times when one of us has a full day of appointments or commitments. Bailey curls up at the feet of whomever is home and makes the house feel less empty.
Adding structure and routine to your day. A dog depends on its owner for everything, from food and water, to an opportunity to relieve itself and to play. For those who find it difficult to maintain a structure after retirement, a pet helps the owner establish a consistent routine from day to day.
Bailey spends her night sleeping on a sofa downstairs, but is as reliable as an alarm clock in waking us up each morning. Bounding up the stairs she will leap onto the bed and lick us awake, all while begging to be stroked and hugged. It is very pleasant way to start the day.
Providing stress relief. Studies have shown that petting a dog or taking her for a walk are excellent ways to reduce stress. Bailey absolutely loves to be massaged and have her tummy scratched. It is very hard to be tense or upset while petting her.
The not so good parts
Costs can be substantial. In addition to the initial purchase, food, vaccinations, toys, and care products, as dogs age they generally begin to develop medical problems that can become expensive. An injury can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to treat.
Bailey cost about $1,000 to purchase and have the initial round of shots and exams. Her food and on-going medcial care costs are averaging about $100 a month. As she ages we expect that figure to rise.
Arrangements must be made if leaving the dog at home for extended periods. Even though Bailey has a doggie door that allows her to take care of her business, we would never leave her home alone for longer than 7 or 8 hours. Her water must be freshened (this is Arizona and she drinks a lot) and her food must be made available. Luckily she loves to travel with us in the RV, but there are times when it is impractical to take her on trips. Then, one of our daughters will be asked to dog-sit, we arrange for a pet-sitter, or as a last resort she must go to a kennel.
The loss of a dog generates real grief and pain. I have had to watch four dogs be put to sleep. It doesn't get any easier. Even though the process is painless for the animal, it is usually wrenching for the owner. I have been reduced to tears all four times and will be again when it is Bailey's time to go.
Your social life may be affected. There are couples we know who don't like dogs. They are uncomfortable in our home with Bailey underfoot. We have tried putting her in the laundry room but that doesn't work. They don't come around as often as they once did.
If you'd like a few other sources of information, click on these links:
Getting a puppy after retirement
|So small !|
|So Sleepy !|
|So Noble !|
The following picture series was in the Huffington Post a week or so ago. I dare you to look at these pictures of dogs and not get a lump in your throat:
21 Reasons a Dog is The Best Investment You Will Ever Make
And, if that doesn't do it, here is a video of a dog welcoming home his master after a 6 month military deployment. The dog actually cries for joy:
Dog cries for joy