Four paws, soft fur, a wet nose, messy floors, and expensive toys and treats. These are all things that make me extraordinarily happy. Actually, multiply all that times two, and you’ve just described life with our second set of kids – our dogs.

My husband and I have been married for twenty-three years, and together we raised four children. He brought two to the marriage, and so did I. They’re all grown now, ranging in age from 30 to 36. They’ve embarked on lives of their own, and we’re blessed with some beautiful grandchildren. 

But let’s be honest here. Did any of you have a hard time when you became empty-nesters? I’ll admit it; I sure did. It seemed that raising our children was all we had done for so long; when our youngest left for college, my ice skates hit dirt. I struggled for a while. I wrote my third book while trying to find my footing as someone other than “mom.”

The good news, for those of you who are approaching this landmark stage of life, is that if you do struggle, that feeling won’t last forever. As in most other phases of life, change can be difficult. Give it time, though, and you’ll start to enjoy this new territory. You and your spouse can begin to discover (and rediscover) things you both love to do. Spontaneity becomes possible again. You begin to re-learn each other and fall in love all over again. I can honestly say that we’re really enjoying this part of our lives. 

During the entire quarter-century that we’ve been together, my husband and I have always had dogs. We love them. We’ve had so many that we’ve loved and lost over the years, each one leaving an indelible mark on our hearts. I believe we can learn a lot from these amazing creatures.

Since our children have all flown the coop, our two dogs have certainly benefitted. I’m a caregiver. Always have been. Since there are no more little ones at home for Mom to care for, our two furry children get the benefit of our love, care, attention and yes, a great deal of our money, too. The arrangement works for us, and no doubt it works even better for them.

We recently bought a new house. Make no mistake that there were as many considerations for our dogs as there were for us. We needed a big, fenced back yard, floors that are tough as nails, no steps (that part was for me), and some elbow room out in the country. We won’t close on the sale of the home for a couple more weeks, so we’ve traveled around staying in Airbnbs while we wait. Every one of those accommodations had to meet our dogs’ needs, too.

I’ve known people over the years who do not like dogs. I can’t imagine that and quite frankly, I don’t fully trust people who feel that way. I mean, what’s not to like? They are soft, happy bundles of love, and every dog believes that his or her human is perfect. Cats, on the other hand, well, they remind me of teenagers. We’ll leave it at that.

Have all of your children left the nest? How you doing with that?

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