it's all about me · organising /good ideas at the time

Can I borrow your dog? Please.

Being fifty-something, I’ve outlived a few family pets.

There was Cocoa the evil black bitch-kitty, Amber and Tessa (both German Shepherds) and an assortment of lizards, goldfish and blue yabbies. We even had a Spanish fighting fish that lived in a bowl in a cupboard after the cat showed him too much attention.

Yesterday, we farewelled Abbie. It wasn’t as sad an occasion as you might think. We’re used to it … this is the eighth time we’ve farewelled Abbie. You see: we just borrow her.

Abbie is a working guide dog. Her owner is blind and Abbie is specially trained to help. We provide respite care for Abbie; she comes to stay with us when her owner is on holidays, in hospital or occupied with activities in which Abbie can’t participate.

Abbie is a beautiful, placid, meticulously house-trained golden Labrador retriever. She’s a dream to have in our home and we look forward to her visits with great enthusiasm.

For us, Abbie fills a big gap in our lives. We miss the joy a loving dog brings into a home. But, being fifty-something with plans to downsize, travel and/or possibly relocate in the next few years, we don’t feel we can commit to a “forever” dog, especially not a big one. And we love big dogs!

A couple of years ago we saw an opportunity to give back to our community and become puppy-raisers for Guide Dogs Victoria. We raised one puppy (a twelve month commitment) but, with Mr P’s work uncertainty, didn’t feel ready to leap back in for another year (just yet). But we jumped at the chance to provide respite care for guide dog puppies and working guide dogs like Abbie.

Every few weeks we get a call about a canine in need of a place to stay.

We recommend pet “borrowing” (in a formal or informal way) as a responsible, flexible and fun way to get your dog fix when being fifty-something otherwise limits your choices. It’s all care and no responsibility – you save on veterinary services, kennel fees, food and doggy accessories.

And you don’t have to feel guilty about how your beloved pet(s) will cope with or fit in with your ambitious fifty-something plans.

You do have to be versatile about routines and prepared for sleep-interrupted nights with sad puppy dogs missing their loved ones. But then you get to watch them reunite excitedly with their owners while you contemplate having dog hair-free floors again!

We have a new puppy on our list of visitors – My Girl’s mini Pomeranian named Bonsai. Bonsai doesn’t meet our ideal size criteria – “that’s not a dog,” asserts Mr P – but she’s very cute and keeps us on our toes during her rare visits.

The only one in our household who is not too happy about our pet borrowing arrangements is our forever feline, Jack Sparrow (pirate cat, bon vivant and sometime muse). But he’s a cat, so he’s never really happy anyway.

If you’re fifty-something and lamenting the loss of a canine buddy, consider borrowing a friend or neighbour’s charge while they holiday. They (the friend, neighbour AND the canine) will love you for it.

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