Within a year after I left my childhood home, my parents bought a purebred Basset Hound puppy. I was astonished. All of the dogs we had while I was growing up were free mixed breed puppies of indiscernible heritage. Spend money on a dog? Never! My favorite dog was a mix that mostly appeared as a cocker spaniel. My best friend owned the brother and that dog looked more like a dachshund, so they were probably a cocker-dachshund mix, among other things.
But to my surprise, this adorable and expensive puppy moved in when I moved out. My parents actually researched the breed and drove out of town to get this dog. I felt like I did not even know my own parents when I discovered this. But surprise, surprise, my mom and dad had desires that had nothing to do with me! Who knew?
My little Labrador-Spaniel, Layla is an empty-nest dog too. She came to us when she was 8 months old, from a young family with little kids who did not have time for her. She moved in to this house and turned it upside down and inside out in a matter of days. Layla was used to noise and lots of activity. Our house had neither. She paced back and forth, checking the windows for excitement and maybe some little friends to come visit.
I felt sorry for her. I still feel guilty that I do not provide her with enough fun and excitement around here. She is two years old now and automatically curls up on the couch next to me when I open my laptop to write. She allows an exasperated sigh to escape from time to time. Sometimes even a groan of boredom interrupts my freelance writing job here in my home. I look up and apologize for her cushy life.
I see her feet moving and hear her breathing change in her sleep. Is she dreaming of our last walk to the park? Maybe the dog park one town over is the feature for today. Layla even barks in her sleep. That has to be one of the strangest sounds I have ever heard from a dog. Her mouth remains closed, but the sound still erupts as she dreams of chasing a cat or warning the mailman to step away from our mailbox immediately.
After I have been sitting in one place for hours writing on my laptop, Layla will begin to reach her paw out and touch my hands for attention. It is the signal that enough is enough. Her naptime is over and it is time to get up and outside for some exercise and fresh air.
Our empty-nest dog gets a lot of attention though. We really shouldn’t feel sorry for her. She gets regular warm baths and lots of cuddles on the couch. I talk to her all day long and she looks back with a question in her eyes. If my words end in a question mark she will look around for the doggie toy I am asking her to bring me. She knows that dog treats usually accompany our playtimes, which are really training sessions.
When you are a work-at-home empty nester, a pet is the perfect companion. Layla listens without criticism, plays without an appointment and grudgingly allows me to open the laptop several times a day to get some work done. She is attuned to our schedule and seems to know when to sit by the door to greet my husband when he returns from work. This empty nest is her nest now and that makes it feel far from empty these days.
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