A Dog Story: What our Pets Can Teach Us

We don’t own a dog, but we are enjoying a visit from our granddog, Max (pictured here). This reminded me of a number of elders who had learned very important lessons for living from the experience of owning a pet. Francine’s interview especially came to mind.

Francine, 74,  lives in a small, tidy home in an urban neighborhood. She was married for many years, but lost her husband to Alzheimer’s disease after years of caregiving.  

One of her dreams was to have a dog, but circumstances never permitted it. Recently, she fulfilled this dream, and it changed her life. I met the dog in question, whom she refers to as her “little buddy.” A bit of a misnomer, as her “little buddy” was an large and very energetic fellow. She told me that loving a pet is a a special enhancement to living (and a motivation for staying healthy:

I got my dog when he was about four months old, so we’ve been together now two years. People asked whether at this stage of my life, I really wanted a dog, and I said, “Oh yes, I’ve been waiting all my life.”

He loves me so much, I have to put him out every day for a certain time, just to have time for myself. If he’s here he’s right next to me like Velcro.

I couldn’t have a dog before because of my husband and work, and I did wait a year after Marty died before I got one. So now we live together, just the two of us.

I’ve learned that everything in life is on loan. And all these years I’ve been waiting to have my buddy, my dog. But I have seen people would lose their pets and be so upset. And I would say to them, “I know, it would be awful. But you see, the day you take that pet into your care and you’re responsible for it, you have to start letting go.”

When I asked her later in the interview about her attitude toward dying, she said:

I would say that I’m not worried about it, I’m peaceful about it. But now, I have wanted my little buddy who’s waiting out there so long, and I’ve accepted that we will have ten, possibly longer years in his life and he’s my big joy. So now I want to stay fit so that I live as long as he does.

3 thoughts on “A Dog Story: What our Pets Can Teach Us

  1. TWIMC: As an older adult (66) and a dog person, I certainly understand the companionship of a dog in one’s life in later years. My mother lost my father 15 years ago and died herself 10 years ago. She said when she lost Cloe then her time was up. She died of clinical depression (grief) after Cloe’s death, my father’s death, a daughter’s death, and I think she would have hung on if she had had the companionship of a new little creature. A therapy dog would have made all the difference.

  2. My husband passed away after 25 years of marriage and I needed someone for companionship and at 65 years of age I opted for a dog instead of another man. He is a joy and a pleasure to come home to, I don’t know what I would do without him.

  3. I divorced 21 year ago and adopted a french bulldog puppy. i have found that the companionship of a pet can not be matched. They love unconditionally and are always attentive to talk to. they seem to understand when i am sad or i am happy and join right in with the mood. My pest have been great therapy for me over the years and reduced my feeling of lonliness living alone. i do not feel as though i live alone when i have a special little “buddy”. I give a great big thank you to all the pets that give all the unconditional love to all the hurting lonely people.

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