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Starting over with pets means work and reward

Retired Castle Pines resident Rita Shiell chose to become a dog mom again after a few years without pets.

Article and photo by Barbara Neff

An old joke goes like this: Three religious people are debating when life begins. The first one states that life begins at conception. The second one states that life begins at birth. The third one states that life begins when the children leave home and the dog dies.

For many, post-career and post-child rearing also mean post-the care of pets. The animals that were included in the family were typically pets for the children. Around the time children leave the nest, elderly pets also leave, creating what can feel like a void.

Retired Castle Pines resident Rita Shiell is typical of pet lovers. When her children were grown, her elderly dogs passed away and she felt the void, her two goldendoodles, Tillie, age four, and Rosie, six months, soon filled the void.

Says Shiell, “They are a lot of work, but they bring a lot of laughs and joy.”

We generally do not, as parents, as life partners, as career people, adequately anticipate the end of all things that make such high demands of us. Total freedom is the stuff of daydreams during the years we are overly occupied with career and family. But, after those first heady months or years of complete freedom, something akin to emptiness can set in. Call it a retirement reality check.

From companionship to purpose, loving and caring for animals can add vital dimensions to an otherwise empty life. quotes Dr. Jay P. Granat, a New Jersey psychotherapist, as saying, “Dogs and other pets very much live in the here and now. They don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow can be very scary for an older person. Having an animal with that sense of now tends to rub off on people.”

At a later stage in life, launching a new career or bringing new children into the home to raise might not be feasible or desirable, but bringing new animals into one’s life is usually an option. Anyone who has cared for animals will attest to the depth and breadth of that commitment, a commitment never to be taken lightly. But, with adequate experience, research and soul-searching, science shows that the acquisition of an animal to love offers tremendous benefits.



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