Rescue dog: Albie feathers the empty nest

’s owner has officially become “that guy” – the one who flaunts photos of his … on , as his iPhone wallpaper. As the comes into view, Albie is slowly replacing the kids in a dad’s homelife.

OK, I’ve officially become that guy. The guy who swore he’d never post pictures of his dog on Facebook but now can’t resist once in a while; who uses a picture of his dog as the wallpaper on his iPhone and shows anyone, at the drop of a hat, some of the many other pictures of his dog he keeps stored in that phone.

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is a freelance journalist and author whose work has appeared regularly in the Boston Globe and The . He has also written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and other publications in the US and abroad. He is the author of “Around the World on Two Wheels: Annie Londonderry’s Extraordinary Ride” and the co-author of three other books. He lives in Needham, Mass., with his wife and two sons.

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I’ve become that insufferable bore who thinks you’ll be just as smitten as I am from a mere glance of my beloved Albie, his pixels arranged in high definition on a tiny screen.

Even though I know everyone, myself included, is tired of the countless Hallmark-cute images of and cats and ducks and ferrets and cockatoos that populate the Internet, I can’t resist offering a peek to anyone who will stand still long enough to mutter politely that he’s adorable.

What’s happened to me?

Somehow, I think this all has something to do with the impending departure of my youngest child to college next fall. I mean the timing is awfully suspicious, don’t you think?

Exactly one year before the is scheduled to empty, we fill it back up with Albie and can now count on (knock on wood) another 10 years or more of having someone around who really needs us – who really depends on us – and all for a fraction of the cost of a human child. What a deal!

Filling an empty nest with a dog may seem to devalue what children bring to our lives, but only if you think about the dog as a replacement for a child, or are hoping a dog will stave off the wistfulness, even the loneliness, that accompanies the realization that your child rearing years are over.

I don’t expect Albie to fill the shoes, or the emotional space, my sons occupied in their growing years. And I don’t expect I’ll miss having children at home any less. But when your children leave home and your nurture tank isn’t near empty, you need an object for your affections.


While walking the golf course with Albie the other day, waiting for Nemo, the Blizzard of 2013,  to move in, it dawned on me that Albie and I are going to grow old together. By the time he reaches his old age, in about 10 years, I’ll be reaching mine and turning 70. I suspect we’ll be a comfort to each other then, just as we are now. There will be thousands of walks between now and then, but just as my kids seemed to go from 0 to 20 in a New York second, the time ahead will pass quickly, too.

He was writing an ode to a car, but Neil Young’s lyrics seem apropos: Long may you run, Albie, long may you run.

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