More Sh** You Can Do When Your Kids Leave Home:

Spend more time with your dog!

You can treat your dog like a toddler! One thing that I never had much time for with three kids and a husband at home was spending time with my dog. We had a Bassett Hound named Frisbee, and, unfortunately for him, Frisbee was last on my list. When Frisbee died at age 14, I really missed seeing his happy hound face greeting me. We used to sit together on the patio chairs in the backyard and survey our domain. I missed that. My daughter Mary decided we needed another dog, so she found Lucy, our chocolate labradoodle on the Animal Rescue Foundation website. We adopted Lucy when she was three months old.

Partly out of guilt for not spending more quality time with Frisbee, I think I’ve gone overboard with Lucy. She’s completely spoiled. She won’t even go outside by herself. It’s kind of like having a pre-verbal toddler around who never grows up. All of my nurturing genes are now focused on the dog.

My anthropomorphism knows no bounds.

Lucy is very much like a toddler. She follows me around everywhere, including into the bathroom. When I’m on the phone, reading the paper or doing something other than giving her attention, she sits on my lap and pushes me to get up — and she weighs 90 pounds, so she’s hard to ignore. If you have a preschooler, this probably sounds familiar.

Just like a toddler, she thrives on consistency, so we have the same routine every morning. If I’m not up in time, I can feel her standing over me, staring at me. Sometimes she pushes me with her nose, or pats me with her paw. If it gets too late, she sits at the end of the bed and makes low barks. No sleeping in at our house.

I decided to train her to catch dog treats. So we have to do “Catch the Treats” every morning. She has a few other tricks that I think she taught herself — she can sit up and beg, dance, lie down, crawl, wait and shake. I’m not so sure I taught her to do those things. I think she was bored and wanted something to do. Little kids will surprise you like this, too.

One of her favorite tricks is retrieving “squeaker” from the water. Yes, my husband and I have specific names for her toys. You know how kids have passive vocabularies? So does Lucy. For example, words she knows are “leash,” “walk,” “swim,” “bunny,” “squirrel,” “cat,” “help,” “wait,” “breakfast” (used for all meals), “treat,” “backyard,” “out,” “toy,” “park,”  “bed,” “go,” “car,” and one of her favorites “go in the car,” “find” and probably several others that she’s keeping secret from me. You know how you get to the point were you have to spell things out in front of your toddler? We have to do that, too. Here’s an example. I might say to my husband, “I’m going to take Lucy for a W-A-L-K to the P-A-R-K in a minute. Where’s her L-E-A-S-H?”

And you know how toddlers like repetition? Lucy does, too. She will endlessly fetch her toy from the pool, which in this weather, is a good thing. It’s kind of like reading “Good Night, Moon” over and over and over and over and over again.

Young children like to please the adults in their lives. Lucy does, too. She really thinks I want that squeaky toy out of the pool!

So, if you’re worried about what you can do when your kids leave home, consider adopting a dog. You’ll have a perpetual toddler at your house giving you constant attention, always thrilled to see you when you come home, and a dog rarely throws a tantrum.

Categories: Editor’s Blog