Friday, September 30, 2011
Something to make you stop coasting
There is something about adopting a dog that makes you stop coasting.
My similarly aged friends might understand what “coasting” means. When my kids were younger and still at home, I was very involved with them and their activities. They’re both closer to finishing college than starting it now, and although I still see them a great deal, it’s not the same.
When kids are 23 and 20, they don’t need you anymore. Not in a day-to-day sense, anyway.
So you rediscover your own life. You figure out who you are with your spouse or partner, as well as without that person. You learn to function in a quieter house. Some mornings, you realize you not only can sleep late, but you could pretty much sleep all day if you wanted to, and no one would care. That’s a little sobering.
That’s kind of fun for a while – the sleep part, anyway. The rest of your life kind of falls into place, too. You get use to a new rhythm – a calmer one, but one that starts to feel like a “new normal.”
And then you adopt a dog.
We’ve had dogs before – almost always had dogs, in fact. But within the past year, we had to make the sad decision to euthanize the ones we had. Both were old; one had been ill and dying for months, and the other suffered a sudden injury. We were sad for a long time; our house was so oddly silent.
Then the stars aligned, and both our criteria were met. We had wanted a rat terrier, the same breed as my son’s dog, Forty, whom we really, really enjoy. And we also wanted a shelter dog. This week, by sheer coincidence, we found that the Ames Animal Shelter had in its care a 6-month-old female rat terrier. Within hours, she was on our couch, getting used to her forever home.
Her name is Isis, named after the goddess of nature and magic, among other things. (Isis is also the goddess of motherhood and fertility, but the dog is spayed, so … tough luck on that one.)
Anyway, here are a few things that happen when a pseudo-empty-nester becomes a pet owner.
• It’s no longer acceptable to sit at the computer for hours on end. Work to do? No matter! If you’re not moving and the dog can jump, she’s on your lap. If she can reach your hands, she’s nudging them to pet her. If you’re gently placing her back on the ground so you can do your work, she’s whining until you devote your full attention to her.
• It’s a good thing you’ve enjoyed sleeping in for a while, because those days are over. The minute the room grows lighter and the dogs in the neighborhood start to make noise, she’s clamoring to join them. So what if it happens a half hour before your alarm is due to go off? Think of it as an opportunity; you’ve always been curious about what comes on before the Today Show.
• The time you choose to come home from work matters again. Since my kids have been away at school, I’ve rarely been in a hurry to leave work on time unless I’m covering a story; pre-dog, on the nights Kevin didn’t have any responsibilities, he tended to leave work a little later, too. Now that we have a dog who’s clamoring to get out of the kennel we leave her in during the day, we’ve become clock-watchers again.
• You’re needed again, and not just to pour food in the dog dish. There’s nothing like waking up to something that greets you as if she is absolutely enthralled by the fact that you are still in the world.
Yes, dogs are a ton of work. Yes, they’re expensive. No, I don’t want to turn into one of those old ladies who stops having a life because she’s afraid to leave little Peaches or Muffin alone for too long. But I’m not someone who thrives on going out anyway; I work hard, and when I’m not working, I enjoy being home. Besides, Isis makes me laugh.
You can’t compare a puppy to a child, but until one of my kids chooses to move back in – which, by the way, Scott and Caroline, would be perfectly OK with me – she’s the next best thing.