Is An Empty Nest Really Empty With A Dog?

Karen And Her Puppies!!!

If you know me at all, you know I love dogs. While growing up, my dad always made sure we had a dog or two. I have many childhood memories of me sitting on the steps of our back porch with my dogs (and cats) on my lap and beside me. I was their mom and they were my babies. I’d made them comfy beds out of cardboard boxes filled with old blankets. Sitting on our back steps with them was my happy place as a child.

Dogs love us so unconditionally…they never get angry and are always happy to hang out with you. Dogs (and cats) are gifts from God and truly fill a special place in our hearts and homes. When Terry and I decided it was time to start a family, I had a difficult time getting pregnant. I went to my gynecologist to rule out medical issues. We tried for over a year without any success. We became discouraged.

Terry and I decided to change focus and begin raising and breeding cocker spaniels. As we went to pick out our precious puppy, I laughed and told Terry, “Watch, now I will get pregnant.” Our beautiful daughter, Katie Lee, was born nine months later! No joke. Throughout our three children’s childhoods, we always had a cocker or two that helped raise them.

Time marched on and Terry and I began entering a different season of our lives. Our nest was about to be empty with our girls getting married and our son going away to college. Guess what Terry and I decided to do? Breed dogs, once again. We got Molly, our golden retriever and Zoe, a cocker spaniel.

We first bred Zoe and all was well until the Stillaguamish River decided to flood around our neighborhood at the same time she went into labor. We were encouraged to evacuate but I couldn’t leave Zoe but Terry had to be able to get to work, so he left to live at his parents until the floodwaters receded.

Zoe was struggling to give birth but the puppies were stuck and I was up all night with her. I called her vet the first thing in the morning and was told we must bring her in to be checked. I phoned Terry with the news. He parked on the side of the highway, put on waders and walked through the flooded field to our home.

We carefully wrapped Zoe up in a big, old blanket and carried her back through two-feet of water to our car. I’m so thankful there were not any photographers or journalists wanting to snap a picture or wanting an interview. I was an absolute mess and beyond exhausted.

Zoe’s puppies were too large for her to whelp on her own. She needed an emergency c-section and out came three beautiful plus-sized pups. During the c-section Zoe’s uterus tore so, with our permission, the vet gave her a hysterectomy. That was the end of our breeding cocker spaniels.

When it was time to begin thinking of breeding Molly, we went to get her health certificate. During her testing, the vet found a cataract in her eye so she didn’t pass. Our plan for breeding dogs was clearly a shut door.
The empty nest was a huge change and a whole different season of life, even with our dogs.😊 Terry and I both grieved when our kids left home. We felt very blessed with our beautiful children, the choices they were making, but it wasn’t without many tears to let them go.

When our kids were little, our pastor advised Terry and I to continue to date, to be intentional to invest in each other’s lives, so when we had our nest empty, we wouldn’t wake up one day and say to each other “Who are you?”

I felt I knew who Terry was but my question was “Who am I?” My role as a mom was finished. That’s all I ever wanted to be in life was a wife and a mom. I didn’t realize, the best was yet to come…the season of being Grandma “Ama” & Grandpa “Papa”. God truly does save the best for last!!
Our sweet Molly still abides in our empty nest. She is almost 13 and has cancerous lumps all over her body. She is our “lumpy old lady” and my “MeMe Moo.” We are thankful for every day she is with us. She still has a wag in her tail and a pep in her step and so much unconditional love to share with everyone she meets.

Molly is our first golden retriever and hopefully not our last. She loyally stayed by my side when my kidney infection went septic. She’s not allowed on our bed and never even attempts to get on it. But the morning I awoke with a raging fever, she hopped on our bed and began licking my face. She knew her mom was not well.

When we take Molly on walks, she always pulls us over to the people she wants to greet. I have met and talked with more people, than I actually wanted to, because of Molly. She loves meeting new friends. She still doesn’t understand that not everyone wants to meet her.

One memorable walk with Molly was back in Washington. It was just Molly and me walking down our country road. Two men I had never seen before were parked by our neighbor’s house. I was a little apprehensive but Molly insisted we meet them. I kid you not, one guy introduced himself as Star Feather Light Dancer. I couldn’t wait to see Terry’s reaction when I told him who I met.

Molly was a trooper but anxiously rode in our car with us in our big move from Washington State to Florida. We tried many different things to calm her down but nothing worked. She was thrilled when we finally arrived at our daughter and son-in-law’s house and was able to play with our five grandkids.

Molly and I have learned together how to endure Florida’s severe thunder and lightning storms. Now I know what rolling thunder is. It sounds like a bowling alley above our house with the balls striking the pins on our roof. Molly begins to tremble and retreats to our walk-in closet. I have joined her there a couple of times. If we are not home, she will go in our closet and close the door.

When Terry and I hold hands and pray together Molly thinks it’s our signal to love on her. She pries our held hands apart with her nose and begs for our attention. When we eat at the dinner table, she habitually begs with loud breathing and hot stinky breath. Terry has trained her to sit with her back to us while she is begging so we don’t smell and feel her hot breath on our legs and arms.

I think God has a sense of humor but also understands how much unconditional love comes from an aging, furry old dog. Oh Molly…how we love you and are thankful our empty nest isn’t quite empty with you!!!

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