When my dog found a retirement job, I did too.
My dog Junior and I are part of a growing number of retirees and canine teams transitioning to encore careers. We have a work-love partnership in an active life stage after a full-time career.
The human animal bond provides work and love for both of us.
Leaving full-time careers by choice or through retirement can create new gaps in social networks for many adults. When I retired from a busy full-time career in health care, I missed the connections and sense of purpose my work provided. I found the most significant challenge in this transition was the ability to find new ways to feel valued, a sense of purpose, and a way to feel connected to a social network.
My rescued Golden Retriever and I soon began training to do therapy dog work and started blogging. Our work together shaped the next chapter of my life.
Junior and I work together as a human-canine community volunteer team. We are a therapy dog team and Humane Educators. And we write about our adventures.
To Love and to Work
Freud is said to have proposed that to be happy humans need to be able to love and to work. Each of us searches for our path to find both love and work during the phases of our lives.
What does this concept mean for the human animal partnership?
Humans and dogs are social creatures. We both need affection and love. Love means commitment and kindness. We both also need to work. Having a companion animal and working with that animal in meaningful activity provides an opportunity for love and work for both the human and the animal. Having a pet is a meaningful and productive experience. When that dog also has a job it gives a dual purpose to both partners. The work of a human in the human animal partnership is to care for, provide food, shelter, health care, safety, physical activity and mental stimulation for the animal.
But what is the work of the dog?
In his book The New Work Of Dogs: Tending to Life, Love and Family, author John Katz explores the human animal bond and how dogs and humans satisfy each other’s emotional needs.
Katz offers that the new work of dogs is caring for humans.
He describes examples of the human-animal bond and presents a case for increased awareness by the human partners that pets should not be discarded when their support is no longer needed. Many pets adopted during the pandemic lockdowns found themselves alone and discarded once their adopters returned to the office.
The most significant and enduring purpose of our pets in our lives is preventing loneliness and providing companionship. The role of pets in promoting conversation and socialization for humans is becoming increasingly important and beneficial in the lives of increasingly isolated and lonely adults. Many adults, particularly senior adults, stay connected and combat loneliness by volunteering with their pet.
Making new friends as an adult can be challenging.
All the new friends I have been fortunate to make after I retired were met through volunteering with my golden retriever, Junior. Dogs are great social lubricants!
Volunteer roles for human and canine teams include helping others as service and assistance teams, working in search and rescue, competing together in competitive canine sports, keeping fit by getting each other off the couch, and working together for causes that benefit animals and people.
Developing a career path for a companion dog gives meaningful, interesting, purposeful work to both the dog and the human partner. Just as each human has natural gifts and talent, so does each canine.
Imagine the fun to explore the possibilities together.
About the Photo: Jill and Junior enjoy a break from work together, Dallas, Texas , 2018