Tomorrow is National Love Your Pet Day and I thought it was a great topic for this week’s blog for a couple of reasons. First, I’m a dog mom and have always been a dog mom. I had Basset Hounds growing up, then Airedales (um…Airheads) and now I have my 4th and 5th Bouvier des Flandres. Alli is 5 years old and Savannah is 5 months old. We are in full-blown puppy mode around here.

It would have been hard to pass up a day that talks about loving your pet. I mean really. Who could do that?

But, I thought I’d add a twist and talk about how it’s different now that I’m retired from my career and living life more on my own terms. Because let’s fact it, that means my relationship with my pets is different. I’m now around them 24/7/365 whether they like it or not. (I hope they like it, but I’m sure there are days they wish the control freak aka disciplinarian wasn’t around.)

Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without my pets in this phase of my life. Transitioning from a career (call it retirement, empty nest, or whatever) is significant. While it means new found freedom, more time on your hands, and an opportunity for personal growth, relaxation, and exploring new hobbies and interests, it also means you have time to reflect and search for new purpose which also may mean new relationships (or companionship).

And that’s where pets come in. They are a source of joy, purpose, and unconditional love. In this chapter of my life, I have the freedom to tap into that way more often than I could when I was on someone else’s clock. For that, I am extremely grateful.

So, let’s talk about the profound impact pets can have on making retirement not just a phase of life, but part of a vibrant new beginning.

Pets can play an important role in creating a fulfilling, meaningful retirement or next chapter. They are unparalleled companions, offering constant affection and presence that fill the home with life. (Well, sometimes I could do without Savannah staring at me when I’m in the bathroom.)

They really are more than just animals; they are confidants and sources of comfort, especially during transitions. They introduce a sense of routine to daily life, with regular feeding times, walks, and care schedules that provide structure and purpose.

Retirement (or any life transition) can mean a loss of identity as you move from one role to rediscovering your true, authentic self. Starting a new chapter is the perfect time to explore new hobbies and adventures, and having a pet alongside can enhance these experiences. Whether it’s traveling to pet-friendly destinations, engaging in outdoor activities, or even pet-focused volunteering, pets inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and explore new interests.

Research consistently highlights the health benefits of pet ownership, including reduced stress levels, lower blood pressure, and increased physical activity. For retirees, and particularly women, these benefits are profound. Engaging in outdoor activities with pets, like walking or playing, not only improves physical health but also encourages social interaction and community connection.

Additionally, the mental and emotional support pets provide is invaluable, especially in combating loneliness and depression, common concerns during major transitions. The mere act of petting an animal can release endorphins, improving overall mental well-being.

Jacmel and Kaya were instrumental in improving my outlook on life during my transition from a career to a new chapter. Jacmel in particular. He was just a big, goofy Bouvier that everyone loved. I miss that boy every day.

All this comes together for me every Wednesday when Alli and I head to agility training. My husband retired before I did and he had the privilege of training with our Bouviers Jacmel and Kaya. Jacmel would sit in the corner, cheer Kaya on, memorize the course, and impatiently wait his turn.

Now, it’s my turn. Alli and I have been training for almost two years (can’t believe it’s been that long). Agility is an amazing way to create a bond with your dog as well as keeping both of you mentally engaged and physically active. In my case, it’s sometimes an effort to just stay ahead of Alli and stay upright in the process.

It also comes together every week when I write Alli’s Adventure Log, her blog that we started on the way home to Washington state after collecting her from the breeder in Oklahoma. Let me tell you she has quite a following. If I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks (on my personal Facebook profile), I hear about it. I love to write, and this is a creative outlet for sure. It’s something I 1) wouldn’t have had the time to do while I was working, and 2) I wouldn’t have been around the Bouviers enough to get ideas for content. I’ve threatened for years to turn it into a children’s book. Maybe some day.

So, as we celebrate Love Your Pet Day, let’s recognize the transformative impact pets have on our lives, especially during transitions. From their unconditional love and companionship to enhancing health, encouraging us to pursue new interests and adventures, and helping us create new structure to our days, pets truly are a source of joy.

Stepping into a new chapter with a pet (or pets) by your side can open the door to a fulfilling, active, and purpose-driven journey. They provide companionship, encourage physical activity (to keep us young), support mental health, and enhance the overall well-being of their people.

On Love Your Pet Day (and every day) be sure to give your furry family members the extra love they deserve. Oh, and maybe an extra treat or two. That’s what my Bouviers will be lobbying for.