Loss of a spouse and pets as companions

Published 3:09 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2020

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Ron Kauffman

Senior lifestyles


Loss of a spouse or significant other is a sad fact of life as we age. One of the ongoing challenges to the surviving spouse is to find ways to provide socialization, companionship and emotional support. These are key elements to maintaining a quality of life as well as a good attitude and outlook.

Assuming that your mother is the surviving spouse, if her health is good, and she is capable of taking care of both herself and the added demands and responsibilities of a pet such as a dog or cat, it may be a good idea to bring up the subject of her having a pet. Remember, dogs need to go outside for walks and exercise. Also whether it’s a dog or cat that can be kept indoors full time, there are some excellent reasons to consider bringing a wonderful 4-legged companion into her life.

If your mother has begun verbalizing that she’d like to have a friend and companion in her home, that is often a great indicator that she has emerged from the feelings of sorrow that surrounded her immediately after the loss her spouse. You have an opportunity to build on those good emotions and solve at least two problems with the addition of a pet into your mom’s home.

Pets are great companions. They’re loyal, giving, fun and capable of providing unconditional love. If your mom can walk a dog, get one that’s the right size and weight so she can easily control her new friend while on the leash. Both mom and dog will benefit immensely from getting out and doing exercise, even if it’s just a 10-minute walk 2 or 3 times a day. A dog will give your mom purpose to her life and provide her with someone – pets become family members –she can care for and love.

If she can’t consistently walk a dog or meet some of the other demands that dogs may make, consider a cat – even if neither you nor she has ever had one. They make wonderful, cuddly pets. In either case, it’s a good idea to talk with a local animal shelter and explain your situation and desires. This is a perfect opportunity for your mom to adopt an older pet, one that fits her energies and abilities to care for without the challenges of training a puppy or kitten. The animal that she adopts will most likely have been rescued from a tragic fate if left in a shelter, and animals have a sense about having been rescued and adopted into a loving home and will pay back their new owners a hundredfold with love and devotion.

It may be a wonderful idea to consider, and it can bring your mom a tremendous amount of joy as she and her new companion continue the aging process together. Be sure that you or your mom are willing to make the financial investment in the pet’s health, as that is as important as keeping your mom healthy if this new relationship is to blossom.

Remember, having a pet is a major commitment, so be sure that your mom knows what her obligations and responsibilities to her new pet are and will be, because pets, like significant others often become a “…until death do us part…” commitment.

Questions on the issues of aging? Contact Ron at 828-696-9799 or by email at: drron561@gmail.com.