Making the best of the dog days of retirement

South Surrey couple open their door to four-legged friends.

Mary Ann and Raymond Aldus offer dog-sitting services to friends and family as a way of keeping busy after retiring.

Mary Ann and Raymond Aldus offer dog-sitting services to friends and family as a way of keeping busy after retiring.

Vicki BrydonSpecial to Peace Arch News

For Mary Ann and Raymond Aldus, easing into retirement has meant more time to travel, sleep in and focus on their favourite pastime – taking care of dogs.

“Dogs have been part of both of our lives since we were kids,” Mary Ann says. “We love all animals, but especially dogs.”

Since bringing home Nick the Schnauzer in 1991, there has always been a dog running around their South Surrey household. When Nick passed away in 2000, puppies Harley and Chelsi, sibling Schnauzers, joined the Aldus family.

“Nick taught us that we had so much love to give,” Mary Ann says. “We were so brokenhearted that within three months we brought Harley and Chelsi home.”

When they lost both dogs to old age almost 13 years later, they made the tough decision not to get another one.

“We just couldn’t go through the heartbreak of losing another pet,” Raymond says.

“We also had to consider adding a dog’s lifespan onto our own and who could provide care if anything happened to us.”

Both Mary Ann and Raymond had made provisions in their wills for Harley and Chelsi but with retirement in the wings, they decided it wouldn’t be fair to bring a new dog into the family at this stage in their lives.

So they came up with a plan to reap the benefits of having a dog but without the commitment.

Mary Ann and Raymond began dog-sitting whenever a family member went out of town. Soon friends and neighbours were dropping dogs off for a stay at ‘Camp Aldus’, and today they spend close to 20 weeks per year caring for their surrogate pets.

“We absolutely love having the dogs here,” Mary Ann says. “They each have such different personalities; some sleep in our bed, some don’t even go upstairs and some we just provide day care for while their owners are at work.”

In addition to treating the dogs as their own, Mary Ann provides email or text updates to the owners, letting them know the adventures their dogs are having and usually sends along a photo, too.

“The owners get a real kick out of the updates,” Mary Ann says. “I mostly write them in the dog’s voice and it makes me laugh just composing them.”

Mary Ann retired in 2014 from a local non-profit organization, and Raymond, self-employed in the construction industry, reduced to three days a week before full retirement arrived this month.

Between the three to four walks per day given to the dogs, and the time available for yoga and gardening, both Mary Ann and Raymond are finding retirement just as active, if not more so, than when they worked full-time.

“Walking a dog every day really gets you out of the house,” Raymond says. “We so enjoy the companionship and comfort the dogs bring us, and the exercise is fantastic. We can’t think of a better way to spend our retirement years.”