Lilly the beagle is sleeping next to me on the sofa with her fat, round, bottom wedged against my hip. She is snoring and chasing imaginary bunnies in her sleep, oblivious to parenting worries and troubling world events. It is good to be a dog.
The veterinarian says we are going to kill her with kindness if we don’t stop feeding her every time she wants a little bit of what we’re having. And so, at least once a month we agree not to feed her any People Food. We make a pact.
Did I mention that she is starting to resemble a tri-colored, floppy-eared beer keg? She waddles. The vet suggested two Cheerios as a treat every time she comes in from outside. She is not only chubby, but smart. She has figured out that the more times she asks to go outside, the more Cheerios she gets per day.
Yesterday, I made soup with the leftover ham from Easter. Guess who got the ham bone?
We are terrible empty nest dog parents, it’s true. If we’d raised our human kids the way we have raised this dog, they’d both be incarcerated by now.
When your nest is empty, you can sleep in on the weekends, and eat cereal for supper if you feel like it. You can drop everything at a moment’s notice and go some place without two kids fighting in the backseat. You no longer have to ask someone else to raise your kids in the event of your untimely death. You can think about retirement. So, yeah..there are definite advantages to being parents of a certain age. I get that. I do.
Even so, it’s the craziest thing. Your kids do exactly what you’d always hoped they’d do. They grow up, finish school, find jobs, maybe even find someone to love. Someone who’ll take care of them when they’re sick, and hug them when they’re sad, and find them when they’re lost. And you learn the lessons of letting go.
And then, the two of you are back to where you began. Still together, but also alone for the first time in a very long time.
So what do you do? You get a dog and spoil her rotten with things like ham bones. That’s what you do.
And she fills the space that remains in the nest.
And in your hearts.