My College:
Family Life

An Empty Nest Dog Dilemma

Marlene Kern Fischer

There are people who love dogs so much that they cannot imagine life without a canine companion and there are those who have zero interest in being a dog mom or dad. Then there are those who are somewhere in between.

I'm in the in-between category. I did not grow up with a dog but I always liked them and so, when my boys seemed old enough, we got Roscoe, a lovable mixed breed. Roscoe was truly a member of our family, with all the idiosyncrasies family members have. He was terrified of thunder, loved cheese more than life itself, and adored us beyond reason. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to save him, he died from cancer a few days after his tenth birthday, leaving us all bereft.

A boy holding his fluffy dog.

Roscoe was everybody's favorite

When Roscoe died, my older sons were already out of the house but my youngest was only a freshman in high school; I know he felt Roscoe's absence more keenly than his brothers did.

Thus began the dilemma of “Should we get another dog?”

After I got past the initial missing Roscoe phase, I felt certain that another dog was not in my future. I had raised three sons and was looking forward to an empty nest and a little freedom.

This past year, the empty nest became a reality. And, although the freedom I had yearned for has its pluses, it also comes with a few minuses. Such is the nature of the universe.

One of the minuses is that my house is a little too quiet. This past Monday, when the weather was crappy and I was stuck inside, I felt rather lonely.

More and more I've been noticing my neighbors walking their dogs and find myself wondering if there actually could be another dog in my future. There’s one particularly adorable apricot-colored mini Aussie Labradoodle named Gus who makes me long for that puppy breath smell, and a very personable Havanese named Charlie who visits his human grandparents from time to time. They have made me question my resolve to remain dog free.

My children would all love for us to get another dog to play with when they come home. My oldest, who lives ninety minutes away in Brooklyn with his fiancée and works about 65 hours a week, has said he would come home to help if we got a dog. I found that statement amusing since he barely helped with Roscoe when he actually lived at home. When I would remind him that Roscoe needed to go out for a walk, my son would go outside (eventually) for two to three minutes before returning and declaring the walk over. And after exerting himself so strenuously, he often had to get back into his bed for a nap. Which leads me to say that I can safely assume the lion’s share of the work in caring for a dog would be distributed between my husband and me.

I've tried to explain to my sons exactly what is involved in dog ownership, to which they declare, “What’s the big deal?” As all dog guardians know, although it is a labor of love, being responsible for a pet is indeed a big deal. There’s the walking, feeding, grooming, scheduling and going to vet appointments, etc. Roscoe's dental issues required cleanings and tooth extractions and during his final year, when he was sick with cancer, he needed a lot of extra care. In addition, although I love to take walks, I hate the cold and having to be outside in inclement weather is torturous to me. I found some solace in knowing that Roscoe hated being out in the rain as much as I. However, the fact that we both returned from those bad weather walks wet and cranky was little comfort. I also know that finding a dog sitter when I want to disappear for an afternoon or a few days is not always easy – or inexpensive. Do I want my newfound freedom curtailed?

On the other hand, nothing beats curling up with a dog to watch television or having them greet you at the door all happy to see you.

And so I waffle between wanting another dog and not, thinking I might regret it if I give into the urge.

In the meantime, I'll have to be content with the enjoyment I get from seeing Gus and Charlie when they stroll around my neighborhood. Although it isn’t the same as owning a dog, at least for right now, it will have to do.

Follow Marlene on Facebook, and read more of her wonderful stories on her CollegiateParent author page and her blog, "Thoughts from Aisle Four."

Feature image courtesy of Holly Berfield

Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother, food shopper extraordinaire, author and college essay editor. She has published two books: Trapped in My Sports Bra and Other Harrowing Tales and Gained a Daughter but Nearly Lost My Mind: How I Planned a Backyard Wedding During a Pandemic. Find her on Facebook at Thoughts From Aisle 4.
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