Dear Zelda Wisdom Fear Factor bulldog humor advice therapy dog advice column

Retirement (5/17/06)

Dear Zelda,

The zip seems to have gotten stuck on my husband's zipper.  Last year he retired from a company where he had worked 25 years.  They had a big party for him and gave him the gold watch.  We had always talked about the fun we would have when we retired, but all he does now is sit at home and watch sports events on television.  Our sex life is next to nothing, and since I quit my job as a nurse, I have nothing to do. Retirement is worse than working.  I love the advice you've been giving to people, so give me some.

Zipless Marriage

Dear Zipless Marriage,

For a long time I thought to "re-tire" was to get "new wheels."  The more I think about it, the more I believe that's what retirement should be.  For you and your husband, it seems like you're still running on those old treads.  Maybe you don't go to a job anymore, but you haven't purchased any "new wheels" either, and you're not going any place until you do.

Retirement should be fun; it should be the fulfillment of dreams.  So why don't you and your husband sit down and make a list of whatever makes you happy?  Is it travel to Timbuktu or Tahiti?  Is it volunteering at a non-profit like the Humane Society so you can help others now that you have the luxury of some free time?  Is it starting a new business that the two of you could run and manage?  When I retire I dream of starting my own dog food company.  Personally I can only imagine how much fun it would be cavorting around cases of kibble.

As for the stuck zipper, my guess is that when you add fun back into your life the zipper will start to move again all by itself. If not, there are terrific counselors out there as well as weekend counseling retreats that can work wonders.* In fact one of my friends just returned from such a retreat and he can't stop talking about the fun he and his wife had. They're in their 50's and  recognized the importance of continually improving their relationship. And, hot dawg, they did.

So go out and replace those old tires with a set of "new wheels" and map out a future that will be fun and fulfilling. Get yourselves back on the road again.


If nothing is getting your husband interested, you should also consider whether he is experiencing depression. Depression is common after retirement and often goes undiagnosed because people are reluctant to discuss it, or attribute their unhappiness to other causes.  To find out more about depression and its relationship with retirement, check out the National Institute of Mental Health at:

Dear Zelda,

My 35th high school reunion is coming up this summer and my wife doesn't want to come with me.  She says she doesn't know anyone and doesn't care how fat they've gotten or how much they've aged. I think she's afraid to compare herself to some of my old girlfriends.  I've never attended a reunion before but would like to revisit the past and go to the reunion. We're retired and I think it would be fun for my wife to accompany me.  How can I convince her that she would have a good time?  Her feet are in cement about not going.

Past Tense

Dear Past Tense,

Listen, if you’re wife’s feet are stuck firmly in cement, there is no way you are going to drag  her to your reunion. Even if you did, and managed not to pull a muscle in your back, how are you going to explain the blocks of cement around her feet? Obviously she doesn’t want to go...for whatever reason.

That said, let’s think positively.  For one, you can bribe her.  What woman would say “no” to an attractive bribe like, “Honey, I will do anything...?” If that doesn’t work you may have to come to terms with leaving “Old Cement Feet” at home and go it alone.  Make the most of it.  Use the reunion to get in shape so you will feel good and look your best.  That, by itself, should pique your wife’s interest.  I don’t know many wives who would want their husbands revisiting the past, especially the past girlfriends, looking better than they have for years.  It wouldn't hurt to splurge on reservations at the best hotel and a deluxe car rental, maybe even a hot red convertible.  Have some fun, do your best to get your wife onboard, and if she comes along, remember to leave all the guilt at home.

The choice is up to your wife: to go or not to go.  Whatever her decision, have fun and re-live a few of the good ol' days. Rock around the clock!


Dear Zelda,

My mom has just moved into a retirement home and small dogs under 25 pounds are allowed.  Do you have any recommendations for a breed that might be good for her? I would love to surprise her with a puppy as a "house warming" gift.

Planned Puppyhood  

Dear Planned Puppyhood,

Whoa!  Before you go buying a little "surprise" buddy for mom, you have some thinking and planning to do.  First, you'd better talk to your mom and make sure she wants a dog in her life right now. Your idea of a "house warming" gift may be her idea of a "home-wrecking, hell-raising, carpet-peeing" gift.

Actually I'd advise that you rethink "puppy" altogether.  Many seniors have problems housebreaking a puppy, handling their high energy levels, and dealing with nipping and chewing (The loss of mom's favorite flip flops, though tasty to the pup, would not be endearing.  Been there, believe me.).  If your mother thinks a dog in her life would be a good thing, I suggest that you look into finding a middle aged or even a mature dog that is trained, calm and low key for her. (Incidentally if she's looking for a new man in her life I'd apply the same criteria...especially "trained".)

But you asked about small breed recommendations for your mom. Of course I'll always brag about bulldogs and what great companions we make, but "under 25 pounds" we'll never be (except when we're internet dating). There are, however, many wonderful breeds that come to mind: Maltese, miniature Poodles and Schnauzers, Japanese Chins, English Toy Spaniels, Pugs, Shih Tzus, Bichons, Corgies, Boston Bull Terriers, Dachshunds, Yorkies, French Bulldogs, and Chihuahuas, to name a few.  

You and your mother could have fun going online to look at, and learn more about each of these breeds. Then you can check with the Humane Society, breeders, canine rescue groups or the classifieds to see if there are any middle aged or senior dogs available in the breed your mom favors. Don't rush, and do your homework.  Ask questions about  the dog's health, vaccinations, the return policy, and the dog's general history with people and other pets. Spend time with the dog and ask for the opportunity to take the dog home for a test visit and to take the dog for a vet check.  Finally, be sure to get a receipt, and the AKC papers, if the dog is a registered purebred.

In the meantime one of the best housewarming gifts I can think of for your mother would be a "time certificate" for a little of your time and elbow grease helping your mom unpack and settle in to her new home. Add a bottle of bubbly and maybe a favorite CD, perhaps one with "How Much is that Doggy in the Window?" on it, and you've got yourself a warm house.