Gosh, I can really see why it's a good idea for retired people to own a dog. I just finished dog-sitting for this beautiful black Lab, Molly, an exceptionally good dog. I definitely see the benefits that having her around brought to this retired gal.
Getting out of bed
Molly was pretty much ready for action at 7:00 am. She wasn't obnoxious about it, she tried very hard not to be impatient, but she was definitely ready to get up as the sun rose, and by 7 wanted to get started with her day. So, I got up at 7am too. This is at least an hour before my normal retirement hour of rising.
Since, when rising at 7am, I knew it was just a matter of time before we were going to go out for our walk, I got dressed as soon as I got out of bed. For those of you who have been paying attention, this is several (and I mean several) hours before I have been getting dressed over these past three weeks of my retirement.
Getting out of your own head
Having Molly follow me around all day, I was often thinking about whether she needed anything; is she hungry, is she bored, does she need a walk, does she need to be let outside? This certainly took my mind off of whatever I was thinking about, which was probably not very important anyway. I can see how, an older person with possible aches and pains, could benefit. Thinking about what your pet needs certainly takes your mind off of whatever is ailing you. It's nice to be thinking about someone else, even if that someone else is an animal.
Getting some exercise
No excuses, she doesn't understand English. She doesn't understand "I'm too tired. I don't feel like getting exercise today." And when that leash comes out and she does the happy dance (which involves two twirls and a double-pawed high-five), I can't help but be excited to go on a walk too! And once I'm out, I start noticing what she notices: the birds, a pretty (for her fragrant) flower, a squirrel running across the street. Not only is she getting me out for some fresh air and exercise, she's bringing me in the moment, which I'm not often in.
The health benefits of having a dog are well documented. This New York Times Article discusses some of these benefits.
"A Melbourne study of 6,000 people showed that owners of dogs and other pets had lower cholesterol, blood pressure and heart attack risk compared with people who didn’t have pets."
Well I can understand why. The truth is, just having her nap at my feet relaxed me. There is something very comforting about having a dog just hang out with you. I did feel like my blood pressure was down a few notches.
Now I have to remember, that for now, I want the freedom to travel without guilt. So, I will have to be content with taking care of friends' dogs and will try and resist the temptation to get one of my own.