Widow that I am, I rarely sleep alone. On the other side of the bed is a thirteen year old, fifty pound beagle and lab mix. Up until a year ago, said bed was shared with a sixteen year old beagle as well. Not only that, but when my husband was living, our king sized bed housed two dogs and a married couple (the eternal family joke being that if another dog entered the family, we were gonna have to get dad a new bed).
This dog is a member of our family. There, I said it. While this does not mean that I put the pup on a level with my children, is does mean that our family would not be whole without the dog.
Having pets is always a challenge in retirement, especially if travel is a goal. My husband and I used to joke at the end of an evening out that our kids may be grown and self sufficient, but we still had to find a sitter for the dog and be home every night to make dinner. Having a pet (especially a dog, I believe) is even more of a challenge for fixed income and low income folks. There are those who believe that in cases like mine, struggling to make ends meet some months, the dog should go. Donna over at Surviving and Thriving (one of my favorite blogs) wrote an article entitled, "Why You Can't Afford a Dog". I've decided that for now, even with some of what they call "income insecurity", that Fido is staying.
Aside from the fact that he has my heart and my children's heart, my dog is a companion. I'm a widow, living alone much of the time (and in the near future all of the time). Fido (whose name has been changed for the purpose of safety and privacy) is my constant companion at home. I've been known to carry on conversations (often unwittingly) with my pup. In the evening, when reading, we cuddle together. Fido is my safety net. A large black dog that barks the minute someone he hears or sees something (even on the street) is a security blanket of immeasurable worth, especially to someone living alone. I have a security system as well, but frankly, the dog is a better early warning system. Just as with my children, I've seen my dog grow and change. both dogs were rescued at under a year, traveled to Germany, and back from Germany. The saying may be trite, but we understand each other.
Admittedly there are down sides to having a pet at this point in my life. The most obvious consideration is financial. A year ago, my beagle became ill. He was not ill a long time, just a few months, and because he was in pain, it was an easy decision on what to do. That experience cost me almost two thousand dollars including cremation. When the time comes who knows what will happen with this furry friend. As far as monthly expenses, dogs are like young humans. They need good food (not gourmet food), basic care, exercise and lots of life. This means that my regular expenses are his food, a heart worm pill and flea meds monthly, and annual injections. It's been suggested that this cost may run a thousand dollars annually. I doubt it, but I have been blessed that my dogs thrive on Beneful and Nutrish, and homemade treats.
The second down side to having a pet in retirement has to do with logistics. What happens if I want to take a quick overnight trip to a nearby town, or a weekly road trip. Right now, I have family available and am able to just pack up and go. Soon that will change, and I will have to make arrangements and appointments for my baby (as well as pay for boarding, an additional cost). While I do know folks who travel with their dogs, it does seem to me that most of them have campers or RVs. If I took Fido on a road trip of the gulf cost, would he appreciate being left while I wandered around town and into a restaurant?
Neither of these down sides would ever persuade me to leave my dog, or allow him to leave me. However, my darling lab is fifteen and eventually the time will come when he'll no longer be with me. I've had to ask myself questions about future pet ownership. Can I live without a pet? Do I WANT to live without that companionship? How will I afford that pet? If I downsize into an apartment or condo, is it even fair to have a pet?
These are all questions I struggle with, and why I have not yet gotten a new companion/playmate for my beloved dog. Since he seems content to be the king of the castle and have my undivided attention, it's not a problem that needs to b solved immediately. What about you? Do you have pets? Do you travel with them? If you no longer have a pet, do you miss him or her? How much do you spend on your dog annually?