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Empty Nester Syndrome: You Can Find Comfort with a Puppy
My husband was getting ready for his second deployment to Iraq, my son was 21 and moving out, and my daughter was in high school and involved in school and church activities and, of course, hanging out with friends. I was looking at a lot of alone time, and the empty nest syndrome blues were settling in and smothering me.
“I think I am going to get a puppy,” I told my husband one night.
He said no because he was worried about our Shi Tzu, Abbi, who was 16 years old and senile. He went on to say, “A puppy will only upset Abbi. She is too old to be able to handle some little puppy bouncing around her.”
I mulled it over, but I had some inspiration in my Sunday School class. You see, almost everyone had a miniature Dachshund because one of my friends in class bred them. She “poo-pooed” my husband and told him that a puppy would be good for Abbi. I kept thinking of all the time I was going to have on my hands. I made the decision. I was getting a puppy. My husband just rolled his eyes at me and said I would regret it.
After 3 months of e-mailed pictures of puppies, I decided I wanted a short haired, black and tan miniature Dachshund. When the puppies were born, my friend told me I could come out after they were a week old. She did not want to upset the mother dog by having us come in to gawk at her pups.
My daughter and I were giddy. After the week, we went to my friend’s beautiful country house. There were three puppies. One was silver with black spots, another was a long-haired reddish brown puppy, and then I saw her. My Maggie, a tiny little black and tan. As we sat in my friend’s living room floor, we marveled at how different each pup was coming from the same mom and dad.
She fit in the palm of my hand and looked like a tiny Rottweiler. Her eyes were still closed and she had the wonderful scent of puppy breath. I held her to my cheek, and she was soft as a tiny warm satin-velvet pillow. My daughter and I were in love.
I took pictures and went home and sent them to my husband who was still working on the upcoming deployment. I got a short, curt reply, “Cute.”
When the puppies were four weeks old, my friend called and said they were out getting the puppies their first round of shots and wanted to drop by. She is an excellent breeder and even though we had known each other for years, she had never been to my house. She didn’t say so, but she wanted to check out where her puppy was going to live. Later I found out she did this for all her pups. She had even been flown to other states by people buying her pups. If she didn’t like what she saw, the pup went back home with her.
I was thrilled they were bringing Maggie to see her new home and family. It was a rare day that we were all home. My friend and her husband came in and she carried a wicker clothes basket holding the now little, playful puppies. All of us sat on the floor just watching them. It was like having a baby in the house where no one talked and only stared at the tiny little bundle.
As I reached to pick Maggie up, my husband reached at the same time. I let him because I still felt I had to sell him on the idea. Little did I know it was love at first sight for him. He picked Maggie up and I noticed he was gently blowing in her face. I asked, “What are you doing?”
My friend had a big knowing smile on her face. She said, “He is blowing in her face so she will know his scent and be his dog.”
I pursed my lips and gently took Maggie from him then laughed, “You dirty dog! Pun intended! She is my puppy.” Everyone was laughing because it was no secret that I had been worried about him not liking this new addition to the family, and here he was trying to steal her.
Finally, it is time to go get her when she is eight weeks old. My husband was deploying in two weeks. It seemed he and the kids were gone all the time already. I had bought my Everything You Need to Know about Dachshunds weeks earlier. I started crate and house training immediately. I felt like a new mommy, again.
My husband spent almost every minute with Maggie those last few days he was home with us. I had sworn she would not be sleeping in our bed. I woke one morning around about 4 a.m. to find him asleep with Maggie on his chest. I nudged him and asked, “What do you think you are doing?”
He said, “She was crying, and I couldn’t just leave her in the crate.” Well, you can probably guess that once Maggie knew she could come to bed with us she wouldn’t ever be satisfied in the crate at night again. I was the “bad guy” for about a week trying to retrain her to sleep in her crate at night. It didn’t work. She still sleeps with us.
Maggie was the perfect solution to my empty nest issues. She took up time I had on my hands. I got to love her, play with her, and just hold her. It was wonderful. As it turned out, she was good for our poor old dog, Abbi. Abbi perked up with Maggie around. She was a quiet dog, so she helped teach Maggie to be calm. They were good for each other.
One week, I noticed Abbi was not very active at all. She tried to get up, but she walked into a wall then fell down. She went to the bathroom where she lay. I took her to the veterinarian. Abbi was just living for us now without any quality of life. I asked the vet if it would be okay to have one more week with her. He said that was fine and was very sympathetic.
I brought Abbi home and Maggie would lay next to her. When I took them out, Maggie stayed right by Abbi’s side. Abbi had been a part of our family for over 16 years. My husband called from Iraq as often as possible to get updates on Abbi. My son and daughter gave up their activities to stay home. My daughter and I took Abbi back to the vet the following Saturday. Our hearts were broken when we lost her.
Maggie acted lost. She was six months old at the time. She became very needy. She wanted me to carry or hold her much of the time and because I was grieving, I did. We comforted each other.
On Monday, when I came home from a day of teaching, the phone was ringing. It was my friend from Sunday School. We had not seen each other for about a month because her husband had been transferred, and they were spending their weekends with him. She told me they had a house and had to be in it by Thursday of that week. Then she dropped the question on me, “Would you take another puppy?” Before I could say another word, she rushed forward, “She is a red long-haired Dachshund. Her father is the same as Maggie’s, but she has a different mother. She is seven weeks old and the only one I haven’t sold. She is yours for free because I want her to go to a good home.” I do not even think she took a breath.
I was torn because I was still grieving, and it felt like a betrayal to Abbi. But then I looked at Maggie who was grieving just like we were for Abbi. That day had been hard on her in the crate alone without having Abbi in the house. She was whimpering when I had come in from school. I had the phone in one hand and was holding Maggie with the other. Still, there was Abbi who could never be replaced.
I told my friend she was a temptress and said no and hung up. Maggie was shaking. It had been a traumatic day for her. I picked up the phone and called my friend back. “When do I pick her up?”
That Thursday I picked up Ruby. She was from a litter of seven. She was very rambunctious and loved speaking her mind. What had I gotten myself into? What if Maggie didn’t like her? I was beginning to sound like my husband.
Maggie was a bit confused by this little fat, red, ball of fur, or maybe I should say ball of fire. Ruby was all over the place. Maggie didn’t know what to think of her.
While I fixed dinner, my daughter had them in the living room. She was already training Ruby to sit and lie down. Maggie was following every command as if she were trying to teach Ruby too. She still looked at Ruby skeptically.
After dinner, I sat with Ruby on my lap. She was worn out from playing so much. I picked Maggie up. She still didn’t know what to think. I had to grade some papers, so I put both pups in the chair so I could go grab my school bag. When I returned, both pups were asleep – Maggie was wrapped around Ruby.
They have been God-sends for me. They are like children with different personalities. They love to play and they love to snuggle. I talk to them, Ruby talks back, and they keep me company and give me something to do. Just the right medicine this empty nester mom needed. I highly recommend puppy therapy to anyone going through empty nest syndrome.
My husband is retired now, and they love him and he treats them like they are princesses. Good grief…
- I Love My Miniature Dachshunds
My husband was about to leave for his second deployment to Iraq, my son was grown, and my daughter was constantly gone with church and school activities. I wanted to feel needed, and I needed to take care of a baby. A friend of mine lived in the...
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© 2011 Susan Holland