Pets in Retirement
Many studies show the advantages of owning a pet. They offer companionship. If you are a responsible pet owner, they offer you an excuse to get some exercise when you take them for their daily walk. They give unconditional love and offer a deeper connection to a world outside ourselves. They can offer protection and often become a member of the family. Some research has gone so far as to suggest pet owners live longer.
Retirement then seems like the perfect time to have a pet. When you are home you can enjoy the animal more than when you were working and came home after a long day, giving them some quick affection and a half-hearted walk. There is no question that animals thrive in an environment where the owner is present. Too much separation is not good for an animal and leads to behavior problems. Depending on what type of pet you have, they can live for many years and become part of the daily interactions in our lives.
If you have ever owned a pet, you will eventually have to deal with the inevitable loss of a pet. This recently happened to two sets of friends and how they have handled it represents different approaches to having pets in your life.
Even though retirement does seem like the perfect time to have a pet, I think it is a mistake to get a replacement pet spontaneously. Which is what one of our friends did. While walking past a Pet Supermarket, which was sponsoring an event for rescue dogs, one of the caged dogs pulled at her heart strings. She got the dog that day and never looked back. The dog has become a welcome member of their family and filled a void that they were feeling.
My other friends are still dealing with their grief and it is too soon to contemplate getting another pet. Good advice for the grieving process applies to pets too. And while quickly replacing a pet can sometimes work out, I think waiting six months to do anything makes sense.
Retirement can be a time of many changes. Perhaps, traveling has always been something that you have wanted to do. However, a pet is a responsibility that must be taken into consideration when making traveling plans. Pets thrive on structure, consistency and discipline. Perhaps, retirement is a time when you would like to break away from all the years of structure that you have had in your daily life and enjoy some spontaneity that being a pet owner may preclude.
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