Retirement-In Praise of Pets or Not
When our neighbors were discussing their upcoming cruise and how much it would cost to board their dog, my husband and I decided we would offer to watch “Muffy”, an eleven-year-old Shitzu.
The irony is when we were working and gone most of the day, we always had a pet. However, once we retired and had more time to have a pet, we have remained pet-less. So, this was our opportunity to see if a dog would prove enjoyable for our new lifestyle.
Dogs are still the pets of choice in the United States with 74.8 million households having dogs. However, for sheer numbers, cats outnumber dogs with 88.3 million, since many households have several cats. For those looking for pets with a little less upkeep, (although I am sure that is debatable when it is time to clean the tank)12 million households have freshwater fish and 9.6 have saltwater fish. 16 million households have birds, while another 24.3 million have small animals. 13.8 million households have horses, followed closely by 13.4 million with reptiles. So, what does this say about Americans? I am not sure, but apparently many people derive great pleasure taking care of something other than themselves.
There is no doubt that pets require a commitment. Just like our traveling friends, if you have a pet that is not traveling with you, someone must take care of them in your absence and it is not an inexpensive proposition. They also require time and planning. No longer do we just walk out the door. We now have Muffy to consider. Has she been outside lately? Has she been fed? Not that we have to worry. It soon became apparent that Muffy would train us in no time. The first few days she was up at the crack of dawn and ignoring her was not an option. No matter how often we begged her to go back to sleep, she would have none of it. She was then ready for her morning walk.
Ironically, when people saw me walking my new pet while they were taking care of theirs, they confided that as soon as theirs went to the Great Beyond, they probably would not rush out to get another one. However, I have other friends who have lost pets and rush to get another to fill that void they are feeling.
Unquestionably, research shows that petting an animal can lower blood pressure and add another dimension of pleasure to life. But it’s not for everyone. I have enjoyed having Muffy, partly because I know I am helping our friends and she will be going home. And it was an opportunity to see if we would enjoy having a pet. I no longer feel guilty to say I don’t .
My advice: never be pressured to get a pet. Try caring for a friend’s pet for a couple of weeks and you too may come to the conclusion we did, pets are not for everyone.