Liz Kitchens’ Formula for “Labradoodle Love”

Are you an old enough boomer to face an empty nest? Or are you already missing the full one? Liz Kitchens might have figured a way to fill it again … at least from time to time. Call her technique “Labradoodle Love.”

My 27-year-old son David, his girlfriend Katie, and their labradoodle Rusty have been living with my husband and me this summer. If you don’t know, a labradoodle is a dog. He’s content to run around and sleep a lot, but my son and his girlfriend are enrolled in Ph.D. Programs. However, they don’t have classes or teaching assistant positions during the summer months.

That’s why, life has virtually stood still for me this summer. I have been so absorbed, focused, and fulfilled by the presence of these two people I adore. They are delightful adults and fun playmates. We celebrated Memorial Day weekend and the 4th of July at our beach place under a summer sky sparkling with color and sound from fireworks displays.

Dining out is a favorite activity. Who knew we raised our kids to be such delightful dinner companions? My prospective daughter-in-law has worked with me in my summer arts enrichment program for at-risk middle school students. As a marriage and family therapist, Katie has been a wonderful addition to our project and it has been so fun sharing this experience with her. And, my husband and I have fallen in love with Rusty.

Rusty and Jozy

This little threesome is about to embark on their journey back to Phoenix for the Fall semester. It feels like I’m facing Empty Nest, Round 2, as my flock vacates my nest to pursue their own lives and dreams. I confess I’m a little afraid of the all-too-quiet house, facing empty rooms formerly filled with animated tales and wagging tails. So, to make the transition more palatable, we just bought our own labradoodle puppy. I had not given a moment’s thought to buying a high priced pedigreed pooch. We already have a slightly crazy Bichon Frise. Why would I need a second dog? But then we spent time with Rusty, and had no choice.

After a weekend of removing shoes, computer cords, and newspapers from needle-sharp canine teeth and non-stop talk about puppy-pooping, I’m hopelessly in love with ours: Jozy. She is proving to be an excellent recipient of my over-stimulated maternal instincts which need a place to be housed when my kids leave. I confess to an ulterior motive or two in buying Jozy. Who can resist a puppy? Especially a junior version of Rusty.

And, sure enough, the kids couldn’t. Jozy pranced her paws right into their hearts. They loved her so much they considered buying her sister litter-mate. Maybe this means they might come visit more often. Maybe David and Katie will entertain the idea of moving back here some day. Als, a Mom’s wishful thinking. Oh well, if the puppy helps sweeten the deal, so be it.

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