Dear Doctor - A new housemate for a newly single man?
Q My son recently got divorced and has moved into an apartment by himself. He is now saying he’s thinking of getting a dog, and I think it’s a bad idea.While our family loves dogs and he had one all through his growing-up years, a dog at this point would just cramp his style. He needs to get out there with friends and start dating again — not run home from work to walk a dog. What should we tell him?
Bronx, New York
Dear Ms. Wein,
A Remind him that with a dog comes a lot of responsibility but that should he decide to get one, you support his decision. Granted, dog ownership is more common in families. But the rate of pet ownership among single people is increasing. In fact, from 2006 to 2011, the latest period for which data are available, pet ownership among single men and women increased an astonishing 17 percent. Pet dogs were responsible for most of that shift. Pet ownership among families, on the other hand, rose only a little more than 1 percent during the same time period.
Pet ownership was especially up among people who had been divorced, widowed, or separated. But “never marrieds” were adopting pets, too.
Why shouldn’t they? Who more than a person living alone could benefit from the comfort and even emotional support that a dog can bring to a household, especially a person who has just left a painful relationship?
If your son does get a dog, he might be better off choosing one that is not a puppy, who would have a hard time staying home by himself all day and needs much more attention than a dog who is at least two or three years old. He would also want to choose an easygoing breed that is comfortable with “hanging out,” like a greyhound.
Yes, he won’t be able to leave the house at 8 in the morning and then go straight from work to meet up with friends — unless he arranges for someone else to walk and feed the pooch. But most people, even young, single people, do not go out every night after work, anyway. They go home — to an empty house. If your son would enjoy the companionship a dog would bring into his life, that’s by no means a disaster that will upend his social prospects.