“What kinds of things do we want to do when we retire?” I’ve asked myself and my husband that question several times this year. We’re not ready to retire yet, but it isn’t as far over the horizon as it used to be with both of us in our mid-60’s.

I’ve seen too many folks retire without anything else to do in life. I wouldn’t be good at that…doing nothing. For six years I was doing two seven day a week jobs, the one that pays (pet sitting) and the one that didn’t (managing the Derry Township Community Cat program.)

I loved working with DTCC, but after six years, and in my mid-60’s, it was taking too big a toll. Especially since the busy season of both is the same: summer. Late in 2017 I announced that I needed to pull back on my involvement. That didn’t work so well, and in 2018 I left entirely. Which left a gaping hole in my life.

Some of that hole was filled by Gracie, who has kept me hopping since the day she arrived. (August 2017)

I started puppy class with her just a few weeks after she arrived and one of the instructors at the training center told me that I was going to have to work hard to keep up with her. Truer words were never spoken about this sweet and crazy little dog. We’ve had about 15 classes together in her 18 months, and she never ceases to surprise me. She got her Master’s Degree in the Canine Life and Social Skills class last summer. Now, we both have a Master’s Degree. I’m not sure if I want to help her get her Ph.D. and show me up yet again.

As much as I kept telling myself that I needed to take a break from volunteering, and from rescue, that didn’t happen. I’m probably incapable of not helping homeless animals in some way until my brain and body won’t cooperate anymore. So for the first half of the year I fostered cats – pretty familiar territory for me.

This sweetie went to one of my fellow bloggers, so I can continue to follow along with her life.

These two were with me quite a while since one tested positive for FIV early on. Kittens often do test positive when they aren’t really. We waited the prescribed two months, and she was, as we suspected, negative, and the two got a wonderful home together.

By mid-year, however, I was ready to try some other things – some new things. Gracie and I started to work in earnest on becoming a therapy dog team – something we accomplished over the summer. Gracie’s proven to be very good with the work, and we visit a retirement community and the local Ronald McDonald House (a place for families to stay while kids are in the hospital here), as well as the Police Department, which is a work in progress still. In 2020 I hope we will expand that a bit, and explore new options. Gracie enjoys the work, and especially the kids. And she’s learning all sorts of new tricks to keep everyone entertained.

This is one of Gracie’s regular partners at both the retirement community and Ronald McDonald House. Appa is a Leonberger, an unusual breed, and when we walk down the hallways together EVERYONE stops us to visit. I’m thinking we ought to get a saddle for Appa and Gracie could ride him, but we haven’t actually done that so far.

In May I also started volunteering to help a local rescue group with processing dog applications. As of today, I’m on my 49th application, and still enjoying the work so much. I love talking to folks who really are ready for a dog, who have done their homework, and are ready to give some lucky dog a fabulous forever home.

I haven’t kept track but about 15 of the applicants I processed ended up with one of our dogs. Some of the applications didn’t make it very far – poor vet history, etc. My favorite this week was an application that I had for about an hour, when the applicant decided she couldn’t afford the adoption fee (which means she also can’t afford a dog right now.) I’m glad she figured that out quickly. Some good applicants ended up getting a dog from another rescue, and that’s cool. A dog got a good home – that’s all we want. Some of the applicants were competing with lots of others for the same dog, and it can only go to one home. Sometimes it is hard telling folks that the dog they really and truly wanted went to another good home. Sometimes folks want a dog that isn’t a good fit for them, and not all of them know it. That can be very difficult to explain to folks…and hard for folks to understand and accept.

It’s a fascinating process, and the conversations are interesting, and occasionally puzzling, but I continue to enjoy being a part of all of it. The coordinator for the dog processors is fantastic to work with, and I’m grateful to have stumbled into the fold. She sends out a list every Monday of dogs that got adopted or are pending adoption, and new dogs, and applications in process, and for some unknown reason, I love getting that email each Monday. One of the best parts of my week!

Along the way, we actually got to foster a dog. I should back up first. I have also done a few home checks for the rescue, which involves going to prospective homes, meeting folks, seeing the situation. I was asked to do one, but it turned out it was one of my pet sitting clients – kind of a conflict of interest for me!

It turned out, however, that I could help my clients in another way. A dog appeared on our list that was PERFECT for them, and Mack (the dog) needed a foster immediately. He was an alum of the rescue, being returned because of divorce. So Marley and I fostered Mack for a couple weeks. Which put an end to my dreams of dog fostering for now!

Mack was a fabulous dog, and my client ended up adopting him and he is just as perfect for them as I thought he would be. They are in 7th Heaven with Mack and send me photos all the time. But without a fenced in yard, managing 4 walks a day for three dogs instead of just two, is just too much. Especially when we have to get to clients by 7 am some mornings. We were really glad to help Mack get a great new home, but we’ll put dog fostering on hold for the time being.

Still, I miss fostering. So I’ve just applied to a local cat rescue that I really admire, and have worked with casually in the past. I’ve helped with fostering some of their cats in the past, but that was done as part of my Derry Township Cats role. I’ve applied to be an actual foster with them now, and am waiting to hear if we might be filling up our foster room with a couple kitties sometime soon. Gracie really loved the kittens we fostered last summer. She was really, really mad when they went to their forever home. Maybe she’ll have some new buddies in the future.

And, of course, there’s been the usual load of pet sitting this year, so I don’t get bored very often. We’re actually having some quieter weeks right now, which is typical before the holiday period. It is very nice to not have to be up at the crack of dawn and out the door by 6:30 or 7.

That, my friends, was 2019. If you’re gotten this far, thanks for reading, and thanks for being part of my online world. Your presence here is always appreciated, and your comments read and re-read. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and look forward to seeing what 2020 holds for all of us.

Debra

17 thoughts on “Looking Back. Thinking Ahead

  1. Retirement has been great for us. We have made it what we want it to be. We no longer have to work at jobs we hated and that in itself is rewarding. We both enjoy reading, watching movies together, and playing with Ducky. And I enjoy working with her to lessen her reactivity. (With Radar around it was hard to give Ducky that “just Mom and Me” time, but she loved him and didn’t mind substituting playtime with him for the time with me when need be.)

    1. We are fortunate that we love what we do for a living, so planning a soft retirement for some period. Reduced pet sitting load, but not leaving entirely. I will look forward to having more time to do pet therapy visits with Gracie!

  2. Moving from a very high stress environment to a retired life was a bit intimidating for me. How does one go from 60 mph to 5 mph? As it turned out, the adjustment took a while and I often feel I’m busier than I was when I worked. At least now, I’m enjoying what I’m doing much more and grateful for being able to do it. Those pet therapy visits changed my life and while Sam is nearing his own retirement, I’m looking to adopt a new fur-baby who can take up the mantel. Very best wishes as you move to the next chapter.

    1. Thanks! And I was just thinking about what happens when Gracie can’t do pet visits the other day, though she’s only 1 1/2 and I hope we have many years ahead of us still. Can’t imagine not having a pet to go around with now!

  3. I loved seeing Sasha’s picture here! She was unimpressed though. Retirement isn’t as scary as some people think. As an introvert I enjoy more time to do “me” things like blogging but I also can volunteer, join up or do anything that intrigues me. I seem to have an internal mechanism that gets me going when I need to be getting out and keeps me satisfied when I’m doing my “me” things. Mack was a gorgeous (but huge) dog! I’ll love seeing the kitty foster stories again. DO NOT LET ME ADOPT ANY!

    1. I make you no promises about not tempting you with kitties. I know there’s an orange one out there somewhere with your name on it! And Mack wasn’t that big – smaller than Bodhi. Only in the 50 lb range (Bodhi is 70 obs) so quite manageable. I’m an introvert like you, which is probably why pet sitting works so well for me. A very introverted professional, at least on the pet side.

  4. Thank you from all the animals that you have helped and continue to help and provide for It is a great gift that you share

  5. I’d love to retire. Work is repeatable, all jobs are. When I retire, I’d spend all my time with my cat. I have three now, and one of them is rather needy, a lap cat. She wants all my time and attention.

    I’d love to cook, learn new things, go to the beach and the park. Walk anywhere that has trees and bushes and flowers and maybe a river. I love nature and animals, and I’d listen to music and pet other people dogs as I walk down the street (which is pretty much what I’m doing now). Retirement is wonderful, but I have more than a decade. Won’t be a moment too soon.

    Love this blog because I love all animals, dogs, cats, rabbits, parrots, horses, whatever. Animals have some kind of magic that makes you love them instantly and makes you feel better if you’re depressed.

  6. I’ve enjoyed following this blog, and seeing all the work you have done to better the lives of animals.

    With eight cats here (all rescues), my husband and I are never bored, and have all the love in the world right here.

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