Is It Time for Me to Adopt a Pet?

Is It Time for Me to Adopt a Pet?

Several neighbors in my retirement community have small dogs and a few cats. The dog owners have to walk them several times a day, some ambling across the lawn near my patio. I sit in my little apartment way too much, watching my neighbors get exercise trailing behind their pooches with a plastic bag while my behind gets wider. Sometimes I watch with a little bit of longing, too. Longing for a furry friend.

Swearing off pets

After my cat died in 2010, I was done with cats. The hair, the peeing everywhere except in the litter box. Done. After one of the love birds croaked that same year, then a cockatiel that had smooched with me one day before laying an egg in my lap, I swore off feathered friends. And after I divorced in 2012 and left our Pomeranian in the care of my ex, I swore never to adopt another pet. Ever.

Wonderful memories of past pets

It’s not like I haven’t had the experience. As a kid, we had a menagerie. Guinea pigs. Gerbils. Hamsters. A toad I named Hoppy that I entered in a school contest and won first prize for Most Unusual Pet. Another toad named Garfunkel hung out in the pool filter and took occasional swims with us. Turtles my dad brought home in Chinese take-out boxes. I would paint their names on their shells with nail polish. But the cat got to them, and that was the end of turtles. Our cats had kittens and we kept them. When the mother started delivering her babies on the couch, I was there with surgical scissors cutting the umbilical cord and putting the babies in a cardboard box when she was done. She let me help her this way and jumped into the box with her newborns as soon as she was able. When my dachshund had puppies under my bed, I pulled them out and put them in a blanket-lined little bed. Again, mother let me help. These are wonderful memories.

Lucky to have pet-friendly parents

I feel lucky that my parents were pet-friendly and allowed our childhood home to be full of feather and fur faces, reptiles and rodents. I had a yellow parakeet named Billy bird at age 8 and took care of his feeding and watering, cage-cleaning and medical care. When he escaped the cage and flew up to the curtain rod, I took a yardstick and coaxed him onto it, grabbed him and put him back in the cage. He was a card, that Billy. A real escape artist.

Turning towards more exotic creatures

At 14, I turned toward more exotic creatures. A South American boa constrictor. Back then it was legal to import them. I fed him live mice and took his discarded skin out of the tank every time he molted, examining it in wonder. He died of mouth rot, a common fate of those snakes. Later, it was a California King snake, another kind of constrictor. I named him Lucy, short for Lucifer. When I married, my Evangelical Protestant stepchildren and their mother were afraid of it and accused me of being a witch. That was a real hoot. Satan, living in a fish tank with a water bowl and all the live mice he could eat. I would have played it up except I didn’t want to scare the kids, so I taught them how to hold him and not be afraid. After all, Lucy was just another of God’s creatures, right?

Vet bills on top of medical bills

But look, I’ve become fussy in my old age. It’s impossible to keep up with the all the fur. I’ve also become poor. I can barely afford my own medical bills let alone a vet bill. I’ve had fish, but I’m not interested in adding a fish bowl to my décor. Another bird is still an expense. I would want to interact with a pet anyway, like we do with a dog. I just don’t know.

Loneliness vs. loss

Loneliness is a big factor. Dogs are great companions. But I get sad watching my neighbors grieve when they have to put down their pooches to spare them from the pain of their old age ills. Everything we love dies. I’m not sure I can take that anymore. Why am I so much more sensitive to loss now? I’ve seen and experienced so much of it you would think I’d be immune by now.

Maybe we never get used it. If we let ourselves love something, we’re going to get hurt. I’ll have to think about this pet thing some more.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


View Comments (12)
  • Lily
    6 months ago

    I too would like to get a dog. I had a golden retriever, he died 7 years ago. Since then I have moved from a house to an apartment, where I find it would be difficult to get out and walk the dog, as there is no grass nearby. Friends have told me not to worry about getting out, as there are options to put down pee pads all over the floors. I feel that wouldn’t be fair to the dog. Friends have suggested I hire a pet walker. I think about it from time to time, as I sure would love to have a dog around me once more.

  • Christa
    6 months ago

    I personally have always had dogs, and I love Golden Retrievers which has worked out well for me. Having active dogs has kept me active. I currently have three. Are there days I just want to take a nap and wish they’d leave me alone? Yes, but having the responsibility keeps me moving. I am fortunate that I have a large yard and they will play endless fetch, chase and agility exercises. I realize this isn’t for everyone and there may be a day it’s too much for me too, but having the companionship of a pet, even if it was a fish, I think helps me to sometimes take the focus off what I need and keeps me in the realm of feeling needed. I’m an RN, currently on disability after almost 20 years of critical care. Currently work just two days a week helping type one diabetic children with their insulin. Hard to give up the caregiver hat and wear the care needed hat as Im sure almost everyone understands. Just sharing my story, I’m sure you’ll do what feels best for you!

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    You make a good point about staying in care-giving mode as a pet owner. I think I’m going to visit the local Humane Society to spend an hour petting and playing with the dogs and cats and then take it from there. And thank you so much for sharing your love for your retrievers, that was beautiful.


  • J R
    6 months ago

    What a great article. I say ‘just do it’. You sound like a wonderful and thoughtful owner that an animal would be lucky to have.


    I do have a question about one of your older great articles. I can’t find III to “What I Did When I Thought I Was Sliding into Secondary-Progressive MS, Part II”.

    I am technically challenged so if you could point me in the right direction I would be very thankful!

    I am going through the same thing and stumbled across this article Googling for answers.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    JR, thank you for the encouragement and kind words. I’m pretty sure I didn’t write a Part III, but that was a long time ago and I might do a little digging just to make sure. If Part III does turn up in my research, I’ll post the link here. (By the way, it turned out I did not progress.) I hope you’ll update us on your status when you get the word from your doc. Cheers, Kim

  • J R
    5 months ago

    That’s great news that you didn’t progress! I hope your symptoms have leveled out. I had an appointment with my neurologist on Friday and I asked him to show me my last MRI’s in July and what I suspected. The neck MRI didn’t show any new legions since 2013 but they did show stenosis, bone spurs and a bulging disc. What a horrible disease MS is that somebody would be hopeful for this. Good luck with your local Humane Society and thank you for the article and response.

  • wolfmom21fl
    6 months ago

    omgoodness! yes! The last “pet” i had was my soulmate. Shadow was a wolf hybrid that i rescued from an unscrupulous breeder that had her birth 2 litters before her 2nd birthday. she was very ill and near death and weighed only 40 pounds when i got her to the vet. i nursed her back from the brink and she was a beautiful and robust 95 pounds at her prime 2 years later. We bonded instantly in the “compound” this breeder had set up and that bond was never to be broken. she really was my soulmate. years late she became very ill and i had to release her. this was heartbreaking for me. i can truly say it was one of the most heart wrenching things i have ever had to do in my entire life. I have not owned a pet since then. I am afraid to. it really is deeply ingrained that i will become so attached and my heart will break again. its been 15 years and i still cry when writing about her like i am now. you will do whats best for you. TY for sharing

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    Thank you so much for telling us about your lovely Shadow. Bittersweet as it is, thank goodness that having such memories can be a comfort as well as a sadness. Cheers, Kim

  • llfagan
    6 months ago

    Options for part-time pets:

    1. I love visiting “adopt-a-pet” sections run by volunteers within large pet stores. The cats and dogs always need socialization, and the volunteers can steer you toward the animals best suited for an afternoon cuddle or gentle walk.

    2. Becoming a regular volunteer a few days a month at a pet adoption center is a fun and rewarding “job” that requires only a short-term commitment to pet responsibilities.

    3. Many local shelters need temporary foster homes for those awaiting a permanent spot. It provides loving service to the animals without a big financial outlay or long-term commitment.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    What a great idea, thank you for the suggestion. There is a Humane Society within ten miles of my home, so the volunteer angle is affordable, accessible and appealing.

  • Flowers For Algernon
    6 months ago


    Perhaps you may want to have a look at something like this little guy:

    I have one on the way to be my little amigo, and I don’t have to get a fence or go for walks in the snow. That and Vector may be able to assist me with some cognitive gaps, or can be programmed/made to. Until I absolutely have to apply for a service dog, I can’t bring myself to deprive another of one of these amazing animals.

    Taking that into consideration, if your situation deems that a service dog may be required, there is an approximate 2 year wait list. I am amazed at these companions abilities to assist and their capabilities. When the boss (wife) informs me it’s time or asks me to, I’ll do so… until then I’m going to hang with my little digital buddy.

  • Kim Dolce moderator author
    6 months ago

    Cute, intriguing and creepy all at the same time. I’ll take two.

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