Change Is Hard

Losing a loved one, surviving a natural disaster, suffering from health problems—they’re all stressful. But what about good changes? Are they easier to handle?

I’m unsure.

All I know is that change is hard.

Honey the golden retriever with for sale sign.

One day this sign appeared in the yard. And ever since then, the people have been crazy.

Everything is Changing

If you’ve read Something Wagging before, you might have heard a whisper that we’re making big changes.

Our house is up for sale. We’re selling nearly everything we own. We’re planning to buy a sail boat. And we’re taking off for open water with our dog Honey.

Sounds fun, right?

Honey the golden retriever with sailboat hull.

Not sure what everyone sees in these boats. This one doesn’t even move.

In fact, when we tell acquaintances and neighbors about our plans they reply, “You must be excited.” And then they start musing about tropical sunshine or that great cruise they took to the British Virgin Islands.

Are we excited?

Sure, once you sort past all the worry, panic, and good old-fashioned terror.

Luckily the dog is still calm.

Honey the golden retriever is tied to a bench.

Well, I was calm. And enjoying a nice long walk. Until my person decided she had to go to the bathroom. I don’t know why she can’t just follow my lead.

The Dog and Change

Honey is going to experience some major life changes. Only she doesn’t know it yet.

She doesn’t know why we’ve put a square of Astroturf in the yard and cheer excitedly when she deigns to pee upon it.

She doesn’t know why we insisted she sit with us on the swinging bench near the lake and why we were so pleased that she laid down and dozed.

And she certainly doesn’t know that I’m researching tracking systems, tethers, and medicines to keep her safe in our new life.

Honey the golden retriever in a wind-blown selfie with Pam.

I get the impression that in the future, wind-blown will be my new look. It’s a good thing I look good in every weather.

What she does know is that the people she lives with act stressed out and a little crazy. She knows that after a flurry of cleaning getting ready for a showing or home inspection, she’ll get a long walk. And she knows that no matter what else is nuts around the house, she always has a comfortable bed and good food.

Luckily for her, that’s enough to keep Honey from feeling as stressed and neurotic as her two people.

The People and Change

Adult humans are vastly superior to dogs when it comes to our ability to think and plan events in the future. And yet our ramped up anxiety levels as we think and plan events in the future has me wishing I were a dog.

I try to follow Honey’s lead.

We’ve been taking lots of long walks for fun (and because we can’t afford to do much else). I’ve been trying to enjoy the feel of sunshine on my face when we got a few warm days in a row. I may even try rolling on my back in a pile of goose poop.

Honey the golden retriever rolls on the ground.

C’mon, give it a try. It’s very relaxing. I’ll even share a little bit of this dead mouse I found to roll in.

Okay, maybe I’ll leave that little specialization to Honey.

But if someone could convince me it would take away my anxiety, depression, and weird vertigo that just won’t go away, I’d give it a try.

Change is Good

Moving house, taking a new job, getting married—every one of these events causes amazing stress. And yet can be the starting point of a wonderful new life.

I have faith that disrupting our lives and setting sail on a new adventure will be the same way.

But sometimes I wish I had more than faith that things will be better in the future.

Sometimes I wish I could be a dog. And know that as long as I had a full belly, a comfy bed, and people who loved me everything would be okay. Then maybe change wouldn’t be so hard.

Honey the golden retriever with spring flowers.

Just follow my lead and stop to smell the flowers. Of course, most of them smell like pee.

Your Turn: Have you experienced a major life change? How did you manage the stress? And how did your animals?

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  1. Glad to hear from you! Yes, selling and moving is stressful. A year ago, we retired, sold our house in the city and moved to our place in the country. From mid-December to the first week of March, everything was about the sale and the move. A myriad of questions and doubts, and the stress of all the changes. We managed by just keeping on, putting one foot in front of the other. Surprisingly, the dogs did not appear stressed or bothered at all. They were just their normal selves. It may have helped that their beds did not get packed: they went into the car for the trip to the lake. Once arrived, the dogs were happy to be in the country, and so were we. It took several more weeks to decompress and unpack. Then came the renovations, but that’s another story.
    Best of luck to you in these trying times.

    • Thank, Martine. You’ll never know how much I needed to read a story of someone else who made a big move and lived to tell about it. :)

  2. I live in Florida, and we took a road trip to Key West. The two lane road really makes it a long time on the road, but I loved watching the tide go out and the boaters (with their dogs) would get off the boat onto a sand bar and have a game of Frisbee. I hope you get to experience that some time!

    • Sounds fun. Isn’t it nice of the tide to go out just for those boaters and their dogs? :)

      BTW, we met a German sailor in Panama traveling with his cat Flecky. We’d see him walking along a long sand bar to a small island where he could give Flecky time to run around. It was adorable.

  3. Hey you! I’ve missed you :( We moved 13 times in 28 years with the military, and even though there were no dogs involved, I was still stressed. So I relate and empathize with you girlfriend. Try and not let it get to you (easier said than done) try and focus on the end result – you and your honey (both of them) LOL doing what you’ve always dreamed of. Take care and keep us updated when you can.

    • Well there’s one more good reason to remain a pacifist. I don’t think I could take all the moving of a military life. :)

      When I was younger, I used to move every year. Once we even saved on a rental truck by moving us and a friend the same weekend. But I’m finding this much harder at 49 years old than I did at 25.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

  4. When we pitched it all in and moved into the RV it was stressful because it happened so fast. We had been kind of planning it, then wham, we had 5 days to move out, store stuff, get the RV packed, and go. I think it could have been worse if we didn’t have the option to store some things. And for me, living on land as opposed to water is a much easier idea.

  5. Geez, I’ve had so many “life changes” in the last 22 years that I can’t even count them any more. But, since I — and my dogs — have “survived” them, I guess I just dealt with the stress by doing whatever needed to be done. And, like Honey is doing now, Kissy, Callie, Shadow, and Ducky have just “rolled with it”. I’ve always done my best to give my dogs what they need and let them know they will always have a full belly and lots of love.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll keep looking to Honey (and your girls as well) for guidance on how to “roll with it.”

  6. PS. Last, but certainly NOT least, it’s good to hear from you again! I’ve missed you! Continuing best wishes for your BIG change!

  7. We moved across the Atlantic and survived! We don’t mind moving, it is an adventure. Are you planning on staying on the boat forever or is this a limited thing for a few years? Just curious. We sure hope you have the adventures you hope for and you stay safe!

    • Mike Webster says:

      From the Husband:

      We are contemplating four different potential approaches to the lifestyle: 1) stay on the boat forever; 2) stay on the boat until something else calls to us; 3) stay on the boat until the money runs out; 4) stay on the boat until just after the Husband holes it on a large and pointy rock.

      Yes, those are, in fact, in approximate order from most to least desirable. :)

  8. I don’t even like to change the color of my walls, or outside paint, or hairstyle, or style of clothes, or furniture, or…well, you probably get the idea.

    I am looking forward to my vicarious adventure with you, Mike and Honey though.

  9. It’s funny how a big change, even if we’re excited about it, can be stressful until the new normal sinks in and we feel secure in our new routines. Setting sail will be such a major change, I would definitely have to practice Honey’s philosophy of living in the moment and taking great pleasure from the simple but important things in life.

    • And I’m not blind to the irony of being stressed by change while looking forward to a life that will be constant adaptation to change. After all, I don’t currently have to move my house anticipating bad weather. :)

  10. Moving (though not as drastic as taking to the seas!!) was definitely the biggest upheaval in my life, and that of my dog.

    You’re right, sometimes I do wonder if it would be better to be a dog who just ‘lives in the moment’ and doesn’t worry about the future at all!

    Best of luck with your adventure though, I’m sure you guys and Honey will love it :)

  11. I’d love to hear more about how you’re prepping and what you are researching regarding Honey living on a boat! :-)

  12. My animals do not handle stress well. Rumpy is upset now as I type this comment. He’s lying on the bed beside me; he almost never does that. But I’m stressed beyond my limits at work and he’s sensing it. He comforts me but he’s also wanting my comfort. I hope it goes well for Honey.

    • You’re in such a high-stress profession. I could imagine that keeping things calm at home is a high priority.

      Glad to hear that Rumpy is finding a coping mechanism for dealing with your stress while passing on his stress-dampening biochemistry. And what’s a little dog hair on the bed, after all?

  13. No doubt about it, change is hard. But at this stage of my life, as I watch several of my family members go through the various struggles of old age, what strikes me is that the greatest peril is resistance to change. The elders in my life who are doing well are those who have embraced change, rolled with life’s inevitable challenges, and taken risks; while those who suffer the most are those who have tried to cling to familiar routines. And if they had embraced more change, been more flexible, taken more risks when they were younger, they never would have gotten into these ossified, unsustainable routines that imperiled their health and vitality and were all the more difficult to let go of when it became absolutely necessary to do so. So as hard as it is–and I agree, it’s hard!–I think you are doing the absolute best thing!If it turns out not right, you can move back to land–but you will have taken the risk and tried, and you will have gained a lot as a result!

    • Thanks, Kirsten. I agree that mental, like physical, flexibility is crucial for aging successfully. Hopefully I’ll look back on this event in 35 years or so with gratitude that I tried something so new and different.

  14. Yes, I’ve definitely experienced some major life changes, but fortunately, they were for the better. The worst one meant leaving my dog behind at my dad’s house when I had to cut ties with him, but I knew she was better off there with the life that she loved. She handled it much better than I did.

    I think a year from now, you’ll look back and decide that all of this was worth it to get to where you will be at that time!

  15. I agree with that last sentiment for sure; if I could be a dog things might be easier. Living in the moment, not sweating the small stuff, and knowing at the end of the day I’ve got people to care for me. Oh if only it were that simple. Your willingness to try something new and make a big chance is inspirational; it’s so easy to get stuck in the “same old, same old” mentality.