Monday, July 29, 2013

The Need to Nurture in Retirement

Bob Lowry posted a piece on Satisfying Retirement the other day about owning pets and all the benefits that an animal can have for a retiree. It was very interesting and in fact important. I found that surprising! In my world animals are just there. I have a dozen grandchildren and a family that value me in so many ways. I am a natural nurturer and I thought that need was satisfied by my family. The wonderful pets we have owned have always been relegated to the outdoors when small children or the family came to visit.

But after I read Bob's article, I began to reflect on all the things our pets have done for us over the years. They have provided comfort and entertainment. Our children learned to nurture from our Momma Kitty and stand their ground from our fierce toms. The love our Dachshunds had for our cats taught them that being different is not a bad thing. They witnessed life and death up close and personal. They suffered the angst of loss at an early age. It was all a good learning experience for them.

After we retired and our children were grown, we were still the caregivers for 4 pets. Two cats  lived for 12 or more years and a the Dachshunds lived to be over 17. I thought that not having a pet would be a relief in many ways.

We led a lifestyle without the company of an animal for several years. It was different in so many ways. Easier yes but better?  Not at all. My husband and I both felt an empty spot in our hearts. Still we waited as though we somehow knew that a furry soul was out there and it would find us.

And find us it the most unexpected place you could ever imagine. We were in our RV staying in a trailer park close to the freeway and next to the river in Corpus Cristi, Texas. Our neighbors were living a life that depended on fishing and frugal living. Unfortunately, cats were not wanted and certainly no one could afford to feed them. A trap had been set to catch strays so they could be destroyed.

RV the Cat
I think someone had dumped kittens near the trailers in the spring and the babies had been living off what remained after the fishermen cleaned their fish. Boats would pull out in the morning and return at sunset. The cats would scurry from every direction when they heard the boat motors approaching. 

My husband was fascinated by the whole process and watch each evening as the cycle came to a close for the day. He talked about the black cat for several days. My husband may be the Doctor Doolittle of our family because he seems to attract creatures for no reason at all. 

One evening the cat followed Doctor Doolittle home. It melted my heart when he turned back into that little boy he was at one time...Can I keep him? he asked. I was not surprised when the black cat came in, laid down on our couch and never left. That was over 10 years ago and the cat still sleeps on our couch and corner of our bed at night no matter where we are. He even travels with us most of the time. We have seen what happens when he is left with someone or to his own devices. We know that he needs us and that is very important.

In our retirement and as we age, it seems RV fills so many needs. We watch him climb fences and stalk possums. He talks to us in no uncertain terms demanding water, food, snacks and escape. He loves my husband and tolerates me. We laugh at him and talk about him with friends. He even helps my husband and I communicate with each other. The very fact that he depends on us fulfills our need to nurture another creature. He is so important to our mental health and social interaction that I cannot imagine being without a pet like him ever again in our lives.

So thank you Bob. Your post made me think. That is a very good thing.


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