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The Other Side of Retirement

Truman has become obsessed with Critical Care, the Ensure-like nutrition supplement for guinea pigs.  The second he smells it, he starts wheeking and looking around frantically.  If he dribbles a drop, we need to pause while he licks it from the bedding (and then eats the piece of bedding for good measure).  His weight has mostly been holding, but since he has lost so much weight overall, I’ve been letting him have a few meals of Critical Care between his vegetables and pellets.

I get the Critical Care from the vet, but when we started to run low over the weekend, I called the pet store to see if they had it in stock.  They did, so we drove down to pick it up.

The moment I walked into the store, everything felt… wrong.  It’s usually pretty cramped, and there was suddenly room to maneuver around.  But I chalked it up to better display arrangements and went directly to the small mammal section.

The owner’s helper came over to talk about vitamin tablets and new treats, and she wistfully told me that the store would be closing this fall.  After 30+ years, the owner wanted to retire, and without a buyer stepping forward, it was time to close the store permanently.

I felt dizzy.  I still feel dizzy writing that.  I’ve been going to this pet store since I was 15.  The owner is my anchor.  She was the first person I called when Cozy’s eyes were coming out of his head.  The person I called after we had to put him to sleep.

The person I called to say Truman is sneezing, Truman has decided he doesn’t like his bedding, Truman isn’t wheeking.  She trims his nails, she cleans out his ears, she supplies me with new ideas for treats.  We clearly have a vet (or, really, at this point, two vets), but she has always been my source for information and reassurance.

Sure, I want her to retire and enjoy life.  She was beaming when she spoke about her retirement while we were checking out.  But… what about me?  Okay, I know, selfish.  But this is my blog and not her blog, so… what about me?

I am admittedly not good with change at all.  But she operates the only independent small mammal pet store in my area.  My only options now are big chain stores that usually don’t carry the high-end food  or Amazon.

But… it loses something, you know?  It’s the one errand the kids love to go on because while I’m shopping, they’re checking out all the guinea pigs and chinchillas and hamsters for sale.  The twins are nearing the age I was when I first started going there.  It feels like the end of an era, and I am so damn sad about it.

After the store, we stopped off for water ice, and I think I freaked out the woman at the counter when I asked her if her store was considering shuttering, too.  If the owner was ever going to retire and shut down the store between now and the time that I die, I needed to know now.  She reassured me that he’s not considering closing the store any time soon.  (Soon?  Soon?  Did you hear me?  I need to know EVER.)

When friends or co-workers retire, I continue to keep in touch.  But I don’t have that sort of relationship with the store owner.  She is somewhere between a human-nequin and advice-giver; not quite friendly enough for me to suggest that we should grab lunch from time to time, but more than someone playing a nameless background role of Store Owner #5.  I am going to miss her tremendously.

Some people roll with change and love change and look forward to change and try to create change.  But I have kept the same haircut since childhood, shop at the same stores, eat the same foods.  Like Bilbo Baggins, I like my cozy, little life.

And just as I imagine Bilbo would respond if Gandalf suddenly announced that he was retiring from magic, I am sort of freaking out about losing our pet store.

If I ruled the world, good stores would never be allowed to close.


1 Cristy { 07.27.16 at 8:15 am }

This is terrible! It’s hard to find independent pet stores, let alone good ones. And ones that specialize? Damn near impossible. I would struggle too.

Maybe someone will step forward to take over the store. Someone who has a similar vision. Still, the change will be hard. I’m so sorry Mel.

2 Ana { 07.27.16 at 8:50 am }

I feel for you, I’m not a huge fan of change either. BUT what a great testament to the pet shop owner—she really made a difference with her life’s work! You should find some way to let her know how much her shop & her advice has meant to you and your family over the years! (that might also prompt her to give you her contact info and make herself available for future advice-giving)

3 Beth { 07.27.16 at 9:43 am }

Oh my, this would really upset me too. Change is very hard, especially when it feels like something so special will be gone forever.

Side note – I am dealing with a health issue with one of my cats and she has also become obsessed with the critical care food we are now feeding her. It’s basically a (disgusting) gravy and she loses her mind when she sees it. Animals are funny. Hope Truman continues to hold tough.

4 Raven { 07.27.16 at 11:39 am }

Ugh, I feel for you! I love change – but not when it’s people I trust and count on. As a multiple pet owner – I’ve developed concrete relationships with my vet, pet store owner and dog trainer – and I cannot imagine losing any of those. I trust them to support me in situations where they are driven by experience and logic, while I am blinded by love and fear (like, when one pet gets sick). I swear, if something ever happened to me, I would trust any one of them to make the right choice for any of my fur babies…that’s how important they are even if, like you said, we don’t grab brunch together or have a friendship. It’s so hard to find people like that…that when you do, you hold tight to them…after all, you trust them with some one you love very much.

I am thinking of you!

5 Lori Lavender Luz { 07.27.16 at 12:10 pm }

I wish she’d have been able to find a new owner, someone to carry on her love and care of small mammals.

Glad to have a Truman update.

6 a { 07.27.16 at 8:14 pm }

Well, you know….you could become a pet shop owner…

7 chris { 07.27.16 at 9:31 pm }

Wow, this is why I read. No really hear me out. Actually it may only be part of why I read because I just love to read…but it really does raise an interesting point to me. See, I think of myself as generally bad with change but this moves to over on the spectrum a little. 🙂 Which is quite exciting for me. lol Because it gives me a perspective I never would have gotten had I not read your words, so THANK YOU. I’ve never lived someplace long enough to get attached to a store, or a house, or anything “place” related. Not in my entire life. Houses were just houses, and stores just stores. It’s really nice to think of having that kind of relationship and I love the concept, and I read it and I think wow, but it’s so foreign to me I might as well be reading about someone living a world away! I kind of think it would take some of the weight off my shoulders if I felt like there was every someone else that I counted on to care like that about my darling furry baby. Hmmm. Must ponder this more. 🙂 Really thought provoking for me.

8 Mali { 07.29.16 at 12:10 am }

But think what Bilbo achieved, and how it changed him, when Gandalf convinced him to give in to change, and he set off out of Hobbiton. Change was never again quite so scary for him.

I’m not unsympathetic though, and it is different, when you’re not going anywhere, but people or places take themselves out of your life. They get the exciting change, and we’re left having to adjust to a life where it feels as if something is missing.

Can she recommend any other stores to you, that might fill the gap?

9 Charlotte { 08.11.16 at 9:39 pm }

Sorry I’m late, but I finally have a minute to type out my story. I do love what A suggests…that YOU could be the pet store owner…
So on the way to the Eastern Shore there was a diner that was part of a hotel once upon a time. My Dad discovered it when I was very young, looking for a place to stop to eat on the way down, after driving for a whole 45 minutes. It’s just over the bay bridge. It was everything a small town diner should be, with amazing food, cheap prices, and family atmosphere. Every single year we stopped there going to the beach and coming home. When our trips grew for a time to multiple families, we would all stop and meet up there. Every person I ever took there fell in love with it. When I got married, we still vacationed with my family so it was his first time at this place. He fell in love, and it quickly became our tradition as well. They served the best diner food and homemade crab soups I have ever had. We would get wistful throughly the year for this place, and started making trips over the bridge just to eat there. Once we he kids and discovered a small playground it was a bonus. We would go see the bay lights at Christmas time and eat there first and come back over the bridge after dark for the bay lights (Which turned out to be a sneaky back entrance with less traffic and lines to wait in coming from that direction.) We were there in August 2014 coming home from the beach. We drove down for the bay lights that same year…only something was wrong. The building was there, but it was dark. Glass was broken out of the Windows. Was there a fire?? I snuck inside to find an empty shell of a diner…literally the wood seats of the booths were gone. The hotel was ransacked. We started googling. The owner decided to retire, after realizing she would be living in retirement bankrupt if she kept keeping this place alive. In September of that year she shuttered the doors and held an auction for collectibles and memorabilia. Had we known we would have gone. I can’t even tell you how sad and depressed all of us were. We needed to eat, so we found a subway and ate but no one was happy. I mourned that place for a long time, and still do when we drive to the shore. That place meant so much to me and held so many memories. And no, we don’t stop anywhere now. It’s just not the same.

I know how you feel.

10 loribeth { 08.15.16 at 4:39 pm }

I hear you. I’ve never lived in one place THAT long — but I had the same family doctor for 29 years before he retired… dh had the same dentist for well over 40 years, from the time he was 6 until the man retired about 10 years ago… he was in his 80s by then (!) & died a few years later. (He was my dentist too for about 20 years.) I am still going to the same ob-gyn (18 years) & optometrist (30+ years), but I know they are both going to retire sooner vs later. 🙁 Around the time I lost my job, the owner of the salon where I’d had my mani/pedis for the past 20 years decided to retire & close up shop, and the Clinique consultant I’d visited regularly for 20+ years at a nearby department store also retired. I stopped by to tell her I’d lost my job & probably wouldn’t be downtown as much anymore, and she told me she was retiring.

Just within the past six months or so, we bought a new car with all sorts of bells & whistles (we still don’t know how a lot of them work), I officially retired, we sold our house, bought our condo, moved to a completely different part of the city 45 minutes from where we’d been living, got rid of a ton of stuff, bought some new stuff, bought our very first smartphones, changed our home phone number (after having the same one for 26 years), switched TV service providers and had to get used to an entirely new channel numbering system. Change is hard for me to deal with as it is, but when it all happens at once, it’s even harder, and I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing these past few years. :p

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