Puppy Love

Joyce Wayne's adopted pet shows how older canadians prefer alternate retirement planning methods for a comfortable lifestyle.

To my surprise, I’ve adopted a rescue dog from the Oakville Humane Society. I should say, my spouse and I have made the huge decision to devote the next ten to 12 years of our life together to training and co-habiting with a Great Pyrenees. He was bred to guard sheep, but now he’s guarding us, two older adults who love dogs and haven’t given up on the idea of having one to call our own and all that that means in terms of our daily routines.

Last week we brought Rufus home from the pound. He’s four months old, long and gangly, awkward and silly with bird-like white fur and a friendly face. When we walk him, bystanders stop to pet him and remark on how beautiful he is.

It was a big move, adopting a dog, for the spouse and me, solidifying four years of our relationship when as he says, “Everything changed and we decided to take the fork in the road together.”

Sandy and I have been in each other’s company, almost completely, since we met four years ago in July. I was summering at a rented cabin attempting to edit my novel that was to be published in 2013 and to start the new one, which is near completion today.  He was visiting the cottage next door.

Our first year together was the roughest. When two strong-willed people, with very definite ideas about how the world works try to bring their lives together, sparks fly.

We both lugged baggage galore with us. We’ve argued, called each other names and lost our tempers. We’ve both seriously pondered the meaning and endurance of our love affair.

Now, after four years, with me “retired”, but writing almost full time, and Sandy launching his new career and business, we’re pretty sure that our union is solid enough to bring a new member into our little family. My daughter agrees wholeheartedly.

In the past, when older adults retired, they mostly settled into predictable routines based on comfort and reliability. Adopting rescue puppies, embarking on new relationships, buying new homes, and starting new careers wasn’t part of the mix.

Not so today when retirees are searching for new adventures and fresh experiences that will enlarge the scope of their days, challenge their assumptions and coax them out of the easy chairs and away from the screen.

The shift is monumental and changing the way Canadians plan for retirement and how they spend their time and allocate their money when they are retired or semi-retired. Retirement has become an opportunity for change rather than the long good-bye, and the way the new retirement is playing out is radically different than most of us thought it would be.

For many, it’s no longer about exotic travel (who can afford it?), squeezing into tight condos or giving up work in favour of relaxation. What the medical profession is discovering is that doing next to nothing isn’t good for our bodies or our minds.

My spouse and I have decided that we want to remain in our home for as long as we can. We belong to the growing group of older adults who continue to hold a mortgage. We adore the lakeside neighborhood, have interesting and considerate neighbours— and work to which we are devoted. Rather than spending on exotic travel, for now we’re saving money by embarking on day trips to enjoy theatre at Stratford or in Niagara-in-the-Lake, both within a few hours’ drive of home.

Our rustic summer cabin, which some have termed “the shack” –which by the way will be a perfect playground for Rufus—is nestled among other cabins full of like-minded folks who gather together to talk politics, books and family traditions.

As for Rufus, we’re ready to walk this puppy four or five times a day. To feed him his special puppy food so he doesn’t get an upset tummy, and to take him to the dog park every few days. When he walks, we walk with him and the exercise doesn’t seem boring at all.

Now when I walk, I have this skinny, gangly, clumsy, but gorgeous creature to amuse me.  We converse as we saunter around the neighbourhood. Other dog walkers, many my age, stop to ask about Rufus. “What breed is he?” they ask somewhat sardonically.  “A Great Pyrenees,” I admit somewhat sheepishly. “He’ll be the size of a small pony,” they reply, giving me a sceptical look, as if to ask ‘do you know what you’re getting into?’

I imagine, I don’t know, but isn’t life about new challenges and isn’t having a new baby in the house one of the best of them?

The other day, Rufus grew weary half way home and I thought I’d need to carry him or find a wheel barrel, or call Sandy to pick us up in the car.  Somehow I coaxed the dog all the way home.

As summer turns to fall, our little family is ready for a change of seasons. Rufus is goofy, funny and adorable.  Who said a change is as good as a rest?

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