Should you get a puppy after the death of a spouse?
Not a decision to enter into lightly but definitely something to consider when living alone is new and challenging.
The common rule you hear after your spouse dies is to wait at least one year before making any major decisions.
Why would you even want a dog? Most likely because you are lonely and the dog will be a loyal companion to fill the emptiness.
If you have had a dog before you will know at least what you are getting yourself into. But if you have not had a dog before here are some things to consider.
Puppy or Dog?
Puppies are a lot more work than a dog. I have 2 friends who are now fostering dogs in their homes that have been saved from “kill shelters”. These dogs are cared for and have had a chance to adjust to a family. Many are already house trained and just looking for a forever home. Knowing that you are not supporting puppy mills and abuse of breeds by purchasing a dog at a boutique pet store can also help you feel good about yourself, and you will probably need some help in that category after your loving spouse is no longer around to tell you how awesome you are.
What I hear a lot from people who rescue dogs is that the dog really rescued the people.
Puppies however are so adorable.
If you can handle training your puppy to go do his business outside, if you can wake up early and commit to a walking schedule and if you will not be out of the house all day then maybe a puppy is the right choice for you. You will need a project and raising a puppy is one of the most rewarding projects out there.
I grew up with a dog and in my adult life, Mike and I had 3 dogs as pets. Our dogs were members of our family and the last one Lucky, a pure bred border collie, we raised as a puppy when my youngest son was 5 years old. She was our family member and loved so much for over 12 years and it was heartbreaking when she died. To read more the loss of a pet my dog Lucky, click here.
Mike and I decided that we would not get another dog. We have an older cat and we weren’t sure how much traveling was going to be in our future or if we would even move or retire so we decided to pass on that multi-year commitment.
However, when Mike died only 15 months after Lucky had died the idea of having a puppy to console me was brought to my attention. A friend started to send photos of puppies to me and I visited a couple of shelters. I was not thinking straight but the thought of a puppy did make me smile.
Three weeks after Mike died, on my oldest son’s birthday, my son and I found ourselves playing with the cutest little 10 pound, 7 month old pup with an amazing personality. In fact, at first I thought the cuddly white round ball of fur sitting on my lap was perfect, but my son said, “mom, you could just get a stuffed animal if you like that one”. So the playful one got a leash and some toys and then took a nap on the car ride home. We took the little scruffy Yorkie mix home and he was welcomed by our friends and neighbors. He was a bit excited to meet us too.
I experienced what is called complicated grief. My husband’s death was sudden and tragic and I had a difficult time sleeping. All I could think about was the night he died. I could not turn my brain off and think of anything else. I needed to take a leave of absence from work and began therapy for PTSD.
Having Harry my new puppy gave me a reason to wake up every day. In fact, he also gave me a reason to smile and laugh. Harry barks to go out for walks two times each day but he does not like to succumb to being put on a leash. He will run away like a crazy crook and scamper circles around the room so that I can’t catch him. I’ve tried faking him out and pretending to leave but he’s too smart. Usually for a treat, he will come over and let him attach the leash.
He loves going for a walk really. Once we are walking, he likes to stop and smell, just about everything. I do not get much exercise walking Harry but since I live near the beach it gives me an opportunity to take a walk on the beach each morning and think about what I am grateful for. I always start by saying I am grateful for my puppy.
Since Harry is a little dog I find he is easier to cuddle with. He likes sitting in an empty chair at the table and watching us eat. I try very hard to be sure he does not get any scraps from the table, but he has watched and is learning to play Bridge when my friends come over to play cards.
My king size bed is great and I do love to stretch out in it, however, Harry has another idea. He likes to curl up in the bend of my knees which makes it a bit hard to turn over at times. It is nice to have a warm body to snuggle with on cold nights and even to cuddle with during an afternoon nap which I love. When I am feeling sad, he seems to understand and is quick to sit on my lap and give me a kiss. When I am happy, he is happy too.
I am no expert but I think that you need to consider some things when getting a pet:
Do you have time to spend with this animal? If you will not be around a lot, it is not really fair to bring in an animal to sit around all day waiting for you. How many hours are you away from home? Can you stop by during the day or arrange for someone else to? Do you like to travel, and will there be a place for your pet to go when you go away?
That brings me to another thought. I wanted to travel. After Mike died, I thought maybe now I would do more traveling somehow and then I got a dog. Not the smartest idea really. I did take Harry on one trip upstate New York in the car. Read to find out more about our trip to scenic Ithaca, New York. He did pretty well.
But I really have to give all the credit to my neighbor and her family who adopted little Harry into their family. They may not have had a choice since he and their large black Labrador Retriever fell head over heels for each other early on. Since the first month Harry came home, he became best buddies with our neighbor’s dog. They have been together on a few occasions to the upstate New York ski house and are always happy to see each other during the week. Having friends with dogs or friends who will watch your lovable little 11-pound puppy when you go away is a really huge thing to think about when you want to get a dog and do a bit of traveling.
Yes, you will have to do something. I was so lethargic at times, but you do have to get up and take the dog out for a walk. I have a yard, but dogs need more stimulation. They will be happier and sleep better if they get out and walk. Maybe playing fetch or tug of war with your pet will be fun too. Getting them food, taking them for walks, making appointments at the vet and playing with your pet will take some energy. Get ready for that.
A basic need we all have and something that your dog will give you is unconditional love. Even when you are not your best, your dog is nonjudgemental. Your dog just wants you and all the attention you can give him or her. The more you give, remarkably the more you will get and maybe that is what you really need right now. My experience in getting a young dog just after my husband died is very positive. I have had some crazy dog stories in my life and I know that not all pets work out for all families but if you think about it carefully and pick the right pet, or let him pick you, I know it will work out best for everyone. Maybe even the skeptical cat.
Did you get a pet after the loss of a loved one? Would you recommend it? Dog or cat?
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