New Beginnings and Pets

It’s now been two years since ‘Maverick’ passed away and getting on with life has been our main concern … without him.

Photo by Anindya Chowdhury
Photo by Anindya Chowdhury

I’ve seen fire and I’ve rain / I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend/ But I always thought that I’d see you again”
Fire and Rain by James Taylor

You’ve probably heard people say that losing a pet is like losing a member of the family. Of course, it may feel like that – one does go through the same grieving process – and, sooner or later, one must push on with life, regardless.

So, it came to be that my wife and I have gradually talked about getting a new dog. Before this it was just impossible to consider, or even talk about, but now…?

Now, there are lots of pets looking for homes. For example, according to the 2011–2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey and estimated by The Humane Society of the United States, an estimated 2.7 million healthy shelter pets are not adopted each year, and only about 30 percent of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues, with approximately 66% of all pets in America being either cats or dogs.

So, if like us, you’re looking to get a pet, it’s probable that there’s a lot to choose from at your local Humane Society.

To help us out as we consider the transition, I talked to veterinarian Dr. Gord who practices in a small town in Southern Ontario. A family business, Dr. Gord has 37 years experience; and, with him, one feels a gentle wisdom that seems to come naturally to this county vet.

Firstly, after thanking him for his time, I wanted to know what other ‘Baby Boomers’, like us, do in this situation. I mean, we’re not exactly young anymore, and being newly retired, travel plans are beginning to take shape.

Other questions included: do we still have the patience for house training a new pet?  Should we get the same breed of dog again? What about having a smaller versus a larger dog? And, do we want to go through the inevitable pain of having to say good bye … all over again.

His answers were both philosophical and practical.

Starting at the beginning, Dr. G explained that his family shares the responsibility of babysitting pets when family members take a trip. If that is not a realistic option for you, you could look for a good boarding kennel. However, he also cautions, “If they don’t let you in the back door, don’t go in the front door.” (Or, suggests meeting somewhere else.) 

In regards to having patience to go through house training, Dr. Gord’s advice is to consider getting an older pet that has been trained already. Checking around, you can give an already great pet a second lease on life.  Perhaps, another family – due to changed circumstances – are looking for a new “good home” for their pet.

As for getting the same breed, our country vet reminded me that none of our own kids, who live under the same roof, are the same. “Why would you put old expectations on a new pet?” he asks.

I know it can be a setup for disappointment. Our son-in-law found out the hard way that just because certain dog breeds have the same general characteristics; it doesn’t mean they’re even close to behaving similarly.

Reading this so far, you might have guessed what Dr. Gord’s view on owning a small versus large dog might be. You love them for themselves, right? Other than that, you still may prefer one over the other based on external reasons like home size or landowner’s restrictions. Everyone’s situation is different and you still have to be realistic.

Of course, the biggest heartache of all comes when you have to say that final goodbye. The good doctor says that within his lifetime, he has seen the average dog age increased from 8 or 9 years to 17 or 19 – with some living on into their 20s. This is due to: improved diet, regular vaccinations and spaying or neutering that additionally deters different types of cancer. The truth is, however, “That final day will come to us all.”, he reminds us. When it comes to euthanizing our pets – of which less than half of owners actually stay to witness – with a two-step process that includes anesthetizing, the pet really has no idea what’s happening. Dr. G adds,“It’s done humanely.” So, why would we deny ourselves something beautiful, like the love of a pet, in the first place?

Finally, Dr. Gord cautions us to remember that you don’t have to walk out with the first pet you see. It must be the right pet for you and your situation. 

Wikipedia describes the bestselling 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables, by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, as being about how a “young orphan girl mistakenly is sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who have a farm and intended to adopt a boy to help them.”

The next day, Marilla informs Mathew that she’s going to send Anne back to the orphanage. When Mathew suggests that that Anne might be company for her, Marilla fires back that she’s not suffering for company and adds, “She’s no good for us, she has to go straight back where she came from.”

“Well”, said her brother, “we might be of some good to her.”

I suppose that’s what Dr. Gord was getting at with his ‘seeing it from the other side’ attitude of life – when it comes to considering adopting another pet.

“And you’re the only one who is all alone / The only one whose love is gone
The only one who has given in / The only one who will give again”
The Only One by Roy Orbison

Recently, I met a lady who had a little dog that her husband once refuse to consider owning because of their plans to travel during retirement – plans that never materialized. Over the last four years, however, that little dog has captured her husband’s heart … even though he doesn’t like publicly admitting it. She says she also shares her joy by dolling up her pet with hair berets and taking her to long-term senior’s homes, where they look forward to seeing her and her little dog every week. And, the dog seems to know who is in need of extra attention – often staying on the bed of certain residents longer than others. Although I didn’t ask, I wondered if that little dog would not also be considered as a needed companion, if she or her husband were to pass on.    

How about you? Have you made the decision to open your heart again? If so, why not “choose adoption”?

“And in the end, the love you take / Is equal to the love you make”  – The End Lyrics (Abbey Road) by The Beatles

Fred Parry
Fred Parry / Sept 2013




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