Referring to a national poll, Livepast100well.com says that more than half of all adults 50 to 80 share their home with a pet. The majority of those polled indicated that their pets helped them keep physically active, reduced stress, and gave them a sense of purpose. Another report suggested that our pets can actually help reduce cardiovascular disease risk, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. I’m not sure how that works, but if it helps me justify all the attention I shower on the dog, then I’ll buy it.
As an older doting dog parent, I recognize that our four-legged family member does have an important place in our home. Even when I don’t feel like it, the dog makes sure I follow certain routines and regularly interact with others in my neighborhood. When I stroke his soft hair, I do feel more relaxed as well.
Life with Ranger
As soon as the automatic coffee pot starts brewing in the morning, Ranger, our 110-pound Labrador retriever, starts nudging me to get out of bed. Our dog has his routines, and he expects them to be honored.
Before I can get both feet on the floor, the dog has high-tailed it to the kitchen where he will sit next to his empty food bowl and wait for me to fill it. After he eats, the dog then expects to be hoisted up on the bed where he likes to squeeze himself between my husband and me as we read the morning news and drink coffee. If either of us forgets to give Ranger sufficient attention while we’re reading, he’ll tap us with a paw until we pay attention to him.
As soon as I’m finished reading the news and get up, the dog makes his way to the front door and waits for me to take him for his morning walk. In addition to giving Ranger a chance to relieve himself, our outings usually involve some degree of socializing. Our dog is like a friend-seeking missile; he is always on the look-out for new people who might give him some attention. As an introvert, I am not inclined to go out of my way to meet people, but because of the dog, I know most everyone in our community.
Some of our younger friends and family members like to tease us because we do ‘spoil’ the dog. They think it is pretty humorous when we talk to Ranger as though he was our child. But to us, he is a valued family member –one who has come into our lives for however long he lives.
The Downsides of Having a Pet
Of course, there are some downsides to having a pet. I’ll mention just two of them. First, they can be expensive. Because we have a large dog, we spend a lot of money on pet food. We also have vet bills, flea and tick medications to buy, and occasional treats. Last year, our dog also needed expensive surgery to repair a torn ligament. If we need to travel and cannot take our dog, we may also have kennel expenses. As a retired couple, the amount of money we spend on our dog sometimes stretches our budget.
One of the other more difficult aspects of being a pet owner is that we’ll likely outlive them. It is very painful to outlive a beloved friend. A year before we adopted our current dog, we had lost another. I didn’t know if I could handle losing another beloved pet. Yet, my husband and I knew we had taken good care of our dog and treated him with love.
A Forever Home and The Best Care Possible
When Ranger eventually leaves us, we’ll grieve again. But we’ll also know we gave him a forever home and the best possible care we could manage. Then we’ll no doubt adopt another special friend who will steal our hearts and become a part of our family.
At the same time, my husband and I know that we’ve taken good care of Ranger and have treated him with love. When the time comes, we’ll have to let him go. But eventually, we’ll find another four-legged family member that needs a loving home.