Saturday, March 10, 2018

Slice #10- Going to the Dogs

I'm not a spring chicken.

I'm 59 years old. And in the next few years, I will need to start think about retiring. A lot of people are excited about retiring.

I am not one of them.

I love, love, love my job. Love working with teachers. Love kids. Love sharing books with teachers and kids.  I work a lot. Probably upwards of sixty hours, and some weeks, like this one, closer to 80. If I retired, I would need something to do. I don't have a husband. Never have. Probably never will. Most of my friends are married. They do things with me, sometimes, but most of their lives are about their spouses. I get that and it makes perfect sense, but it also makes for a lot of lonely weekends.

A couple of years ago, I started thinking about a hobby. My hobbies right now are reading, kids, and learning about my craft, by going to education classes. I don't knit or sew or paint. I don't cook or bake. I kill pretty much every plant that comes into my house. I don't know how to play bridge. I'm not saying that I will never do those things, but I definitely don't do them now.

I thought about things that I love. Not including kids and teaching and books. One thing that immediately came to mind is dogs. I love dogs. And so I started thinking about hobbies that involved dogs. For the past five or six years, I've watched a web cam, Warrior Canine Connection, that raises dogs for veterans with PTSD. They are located in Maryland (they might be opening a branch in Colorado soon), so that's a little too far away.

Last summer, though, I ran into Debbie, a friend I had taught with years ago. Debbie was accompanied by Shadow, an enormous black lab that she is raising for the Canine Assistance Partners of the Rockies. Shadow is in advanced training and within the next six months he will become a mobility dog for a woman with multiple sclerosis. I told Debbie I was looking for a hobby, and was interested in dogs, and she invited me to attend training with her.

And so since last fall, I have been attending classes two Saturdays a month. Besides Shadow, there are anywhere between 5 and 8 dogs, all labs, ranging in age from 4 months to a little over two years. I don't get to do a lot- sometimes I hold a dog's leash at one end of the room, while the owner walks to the other end of the room and calls them, or I serve as a prop in a training exercise. Everyone once in a while, if the trainers have brought an extra dog, I get to hold a leash and take the dog through the exercise.

I have loved these Saturday mornings. I love the dogs and their handlers. Besides Shadow, there's Ully, an 18-month-old black lab. Her puppy parents, J and M, are a retired occupational therapist and sociology professor. Ully is their third service dog. Their second dog, Rosie, is the mama to Willow and Walker, two bouncing four-month-old pups who just came from Maryland, where Rosie whelped after she was bred to a dad from the Warrior Canine Connection. And there's Valor, an high-spirited seven-month-old black lab, who is just learning to curb his impulsive tendencies so he can become a service dog. His mama is about my age, recently retired. She took Valor in respite care, and then became his full-time mama. She makes me laugh every week with his exploits, most of which involve his fascination with toilet paper.

I'm not sure yet what my role with this organization will be. They'd like me to raise a puppy and take it to school like Debbie did with Shadow, but I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. Puppies, and especially service dog puppies, are a LOT of work. I'm also not sure that my aging lab, Star, would appreciate or be kind to a puppy. I might become a respite care home, for the dogs when their owners go out of town, or just have a situation when they need a break. Or I might just volunteer in the office this summer, at least for the time being.

At any rate, I need to find a hobby. I'm hoping that raising service dogs might be a possibility.


elsie said...

What an interesting hobby that would be! I wondered if you still had Starr. Slowly you can explore your options with this dog organization, but nothing says you have to retire if you continue to enjoy your work.

Elisabeth Ellington said...

I also have a hard time imagining retirement. But then I have spring break this week and I think, hmmm, I could really get used to this! Reading and writing and puttering all day. It's funny you should write about hobbies because I was just wondering this morning if I truly have any hobbies. It seems that everything I do with my time connects back to work in some way. I loved reading about the service dog organization and how that might become a larger part of your life.

Tamara said...

What a great hobby, so full of purpose and joy. Kind of like teaching in that way. You’ve got my wheels spinning about retirement. It’s hard to for me to contemplate walking away entirely from something so woven into the fabric of who I am, I imagine it’s the same for you. So my thinking is around how I can keep a hand in certain aspects of it. I think you’ve inspired a post.

Ramona said...

I enjoyed reading about your Saturdays with the service dogs and their parents. Your snapshot of each dog/puppy helped to create a personality for each of them. I say do what is fun! With your love of kids and books, you might look at an after school book club, something I did for three years after retiring. It was fun! And as Elsie, says you don't have to retire until you want to.

Unknown said...

That sounds like such a fun and rewarding hobby!

Unknown said...

Oh Carol, I hear you about retiring ( which I am doing in June). You are on the right track to be thinking what to do next. I had a total meltdown about retiring on Monday (which I wrote about.)

Ashley Brown said...

What fun that would be, but a lot of work too! I know the impact that these dogs have on the people who truly need them, so you'd still be doing some amazing work. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I love how your title fit so well with your post! I have a colleague and friend who is in very similar shoes, she is nearing retirement but isn't entirely sure she is ready. She is married but that doesn't change the fact that she has dedicated her life to her work and doesn't know exactly what she will do with herself. I think you are heading in the right direction by trying things out. I think it is important to have a plan, a plan for the day after you retire! Good luck with your dogs!!!