As readers know, those of us past the age of 50 may be fortunate enough to have a chance to explore best parts of ourselves in a period called Second Adulthood, many of us move into new careers. For example, at 55, husband John moved from being a CEO in publishing to being a small scale real estate investor and builder, and he loves the change. The story of Boomer exemplifies successful second adulthood, but with a twist: Boomer is a Portuguese Water Dog, the breed that graces the White House.
Boomer is our nickname for AKC Champion Cove’s End’s Dream Come True. At 54 pounds of curly steel grey hair, intelligent brown eyes, and strong bones, Boomer has a large statesman-like presence. At seven, he has lived about half his expected life in the limelight, collecting titles for his great appearance, and for his remarkable abilities in obedience work, canine gymnastics, and swimming. A dog rarely collects so many varied titles, but Boomer has many talents and Marlene Nicewander, a top breeder of Portuguese water dogs, has insured that her boy got best opportunities.
Recently she worried that he was not getting enough stimulation at home, where he has helped raise many litters of slightly daft girl puppies who jump all over the distinguished gentleman. Burying his head into his paws, Boomer has learned to grumble under his breath. No longer the star of the show, he seemed quietly resigned to fading into the background, his sparkling personality dimmed by the constant glitz around him. To give him a deserved second adulthood, Marlene invited us to take him for an extended visit while yet another litter was being born. We jumped at the opportunity.
Boomer came to us at Rittenhouse Square last week and has already established himself as a canine statesman and intellect. Without blinking a big brown eye, he walked elegantly into this beautiful city park, gathering admiring comments. We included Boomer at dinner at Parc, a beloved French bistro.. Boomer dined outdoors under our table, waiting politely til meal’s end before receiving tiny hamburger leftovers. Although he was new to outdoor restaurant dining, he handled his behavior with gentlemanly perfection.
Our dogs double as therapy dogs at The Coche Center. Though the training of a therapy dog usually takes three years, Boomer understood immediately that he needs to be available for pats, open to treats, and quietly unobtrusive. He loves his new “beddie” in my office. Because he loves people, he is a natural greeter for new clients, who look forward to the stable canine presence in our waiting room.
Often, in second adulthood, we return to unfinished parts of our formal education to manage new life skills. In like fashion, we are taking Boomer back to doggie school to become a Canine Good Citizen. This title will enable him to become a therapy dog with the American Kennel Association. Like the champion that he is, Boomer is demonstrating his earlier obedience skills and is a star of the class.
Catherine Bateson, the visionary who coined the term “second adulthood,” has never met Boomer, but he is a living example of her concept. Like humans who integrate new parts of themselves in midlife, Boomer is now integrating his many skills and interests. He has gone from life on a country estate where he was a grumbly puppy nursemaid, to city life, where his wisdom and distinguished appearance graces our lives. Good news for all involved indeed!
Are you ready for a second adulthood? Ask yourself the same questions we considered before we brought Boomer to the city:
1. Reclaim Life? Do you have the feeling that you need more time for you? Boomer spent life caring for others at his own expense. Do you?
2. Revitalize Health? Are you growing older, slowing down? Boomer is now walking three miles daily to shave weight. Do you do what you need to remain healthy?
3. Renew Relationships? Boomer has joined a new family. Despite his happy earlier years, he is stimulated by his new world. He gets to keep the love of his old family as he visits with ours. Do you want to form new relationships?
4. Redefine Life’s Meaning? Boomer needs to relax a bit. He has great years ahead. We are helping him shape an expanded future self so that he can live his days filled with meaning. Do you have a vision of your future self?
Making the transition into this new territory can be challenging, but worth the effort. If you have any doubt, just think of the inspirational Boomer, Portuguese Water Dog extraordinaire.
To Read: Sharon Saxon. Paws and Effect. New York.
Dr. Judith Coche maintains The Coche Center, LLC, a practice in Clinical Psychology, in Stone Harbor and at Rittenhouse Square. She also trains therapy dogs. Find her at www.cochecenter.com