How a Puppy Cured My Loneliness

Life without a companion is lonely.

Photo by Carolyn Pullman at Penguin’s Wanderlust

I had never lived alone but then both my children moved away. I was spending most of every day with my mother at her house close to mine. She was having increasing difficulty manoevering around the home where she had lived for 35 years. Her mobility was decreasing due to rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoporosis. She had to use a walker and she can’t see. Her family had a dog named Rover when she was a kid about seventy years ago. When I was a child, my brother and I were given the choice of a pet or travel. We chose travel. As an adult I had cats. When I was outside the house I was always by myself. If I went for a walk on the beach or through the woods I was always alone. I felt lonely a great deal of the time.

A cat lifestyle suited us

I always told my kids that we had a cat lifestyle not a dog lifestyle. I had no idea how true that was. Cats are independent and can be left on their own. Just leave them food, water, and a litter box and they’re happy. You can have someone drop by daily to check on them and take care of their needs. If you go away for a weekend you can just leave multiples out. If you’re a hermit and like to stay inside, and like to sleep in mornings then a cat is the pet for you. I’ve always had indoor cats. Sometimes I’ll let them go into the yard but I don’t want them to be one of those numerous missing pets or run over.

Both my adult kids were living in Vancouver. My old tabby cat, Duster, passed away. After awhile I decided I wanted to get another kitten. My daughter suggested that I get a puppy instead because then I’d have a friend to go on walks with outside. I had always wanted a Yorkshire Terrier. I started looking online and found an ad for a “Morkie”. I had never heard of a Morkie but then again I’d never ever had a dog so dog breeds wasn’t my area of expertise. A Morkie is a mix of Maltese and Yorkie. I found an adorable little guy and made arrangements to bring him home. His name had been “Beanie” but no one in the family liked that. My mother chose the name Rover for him. He became Rover the 2nd. It’s a good name with a good history. My Mum’s dad had built a wooden sailboat for my brother and me. It’s name was the Lucky Rover after both dogs that the family had. Lucky wasn’t very lucky though as some people in a truck ran off with him. So I would hesitate to name a dog after him.

We never used to have a dog lifestyle

You have to get up and take your dog for a walk so it can go to the toilet. Dogs don’t like to be left alone for any length of time. No wonder they call a dog man’s best friend. A very clingy friend. So if you’re an early riser, like to go for walks, and want a constant companion then a dog is for you especially if you are retired or work from home. He’s very needy. Much more so than a child. It’s difficult to take care of a dog if you work elsewhere. I’m glad I waited until I was at home.

There is a really good funny video online called “Cat-Friend vs Dog-Friend”. It is perfect and they’ve added two more to the series.

From puppy socialization to dog walks to agility training

The breeder had given him his first shot at 7 weeks. I got him at 8 which is the age my vet said he should be for the first shot. By the second shot you’re supposed to be able to let your dog be around others but my vet said sometimes the first one doesn’t take if it’s given too young. So it wasn’t until he had his third shot that I felt comfortable putting him into a puppy socialization class. The local branch of the pet food chain had a trainer come in one evening a week to run a class. Only a couple of dogs went into the pen together at a time. Rover didn’t like me being on the outside of the fence. He suffers from separation anxiety. Dogs really are a pack animal. So he was exposed to all sizes, types, and differing dispositions at class. Us owners had to hold other puppies. They were always far heavier than mine. We went on a few organized dog walks as well but then we moved onto agility classes instead. In those the dog goes over jumps, through tunnels, and other obstacles. It’s good exercise for both of us as you have to run the course.

Old people are always so happy when Rover visits them

My Mum broke her hip and had to move into a nursing home. Some of the seniors there hold small stuffed dogs or cats in their laps. They’re all in wheelchairs which I guess makes it easier to move them around. My granddad never let my grandma have a wheelchair. He said you’d lose all your mobility if you used one. I think he was right. My grandma had two wooden canes that she used to hobble around. She had developed rheumatoid arthritis when they moved to Canada from Scotland. She was always misplacing them and we’d have to search for them. She had a bad habit of trying to lasso people with the ends of them.

When I go into Mum’s nursing home all the seniors get excited by seeing Rover. He’s the same size as their stuffed animals. I can hold him with one hand under his belly so that they can pet him. Everyone says that he’s “cute” and “I could just put him in my pocket”. He’s a 4 and a half pound toy. My daughter says the really tiny dogs that are called a teacup aren’t really a breed. They’re just an overly small toy and they usually have health issues. Rover’s mother was a Maltese and his dad was a Yorkshire Terrier. He’s supposedly a “designer breed” — specifically a “Morkie” (Maltese / Yorkie).

Eventually I want Rover to become a therapy dog

The neighbour across the street takes his dog to visit children and old people. He had his dog certified as a therapy dog through a local group called “Paws”. I’d kind of like to do the same with Rover except only for old people. My concern is that you have to always go on a specific day and I never know what I’m doing until the day. My schedule is a bit erratic right now because I drive my daughter to and from work and her work schedule as a hairdresser changes every day and week. Both of my adult kids moved home last year.

Morkies aren’t supposed to be around children under the age of six as they can’t handle rough play. So I’d only take him to see seniors. Whenever I visit Mum, I try to let the other residents visit with him. Even ones with severe dementia snap out of it when they get to spend time with him. My Mum’s friend has a dog but her daughter refuses to bring it in to visit. That makes me sad so I always try to let her have time with Rover too. It’s nice seeing the older generation happy.

Occasionally he runs barking towards someone making them upset even though he’s tiny. I’ve been trying to discourage that behaviour. He also doesn’t acknowledge that he’s a small dog. He has a bad habit of barking at big dogs that he doesn’t know. Thankfully the majority of big dogs are laid back and chill with this treatment. They just ignore the small yappy dog.

Having a dog is an excellent icebreaker

Having a dog is a great way to get to know the neighbours better. Before I got Rover I hadn’t spoken to some of them. Every day dog owners stop and talk to each other. I had no idea as a cat owner that I wasn’t connected to this underground information source. I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of the neighbourhood. I gave a speech about this at Toastmasters. You can watch “The ‘hood.”

When I’m away from home I meet many new people who always fuss over him. They always call him cute, ask how old he is (when I say two and a half years old they’re always surprised he’s not a puppy), what does he weigh, what’s his name (then they say Rover’s a big name for such a little dog)

I haven’t been lonely since I got Rover

I’m extremely glad that I have Rover. He’s always with me. Trips in the car or the RV are no problem for him. He’s used to road trips and daily commutes. Walks on the beach with my best friend are always nice. Dog owners are all very friendly. I met my very good friend, Anne Marie, at a beach when she was walking Hugo. He is also a designer breed — Havanese / Poodle but the short form for that isn’t good — Havapoo. She prefers Poovanese. She was also looking after her mother so we had a lot to discuss. We’ve been on a few road trips with the dogs too. So now I’m a dog person as well as a cat person. What about you? Are you a dog person or a cat person?