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The Big Move

Transitioning Into a New Normal

After all the boxes are unpacked, it's the little things that matter.

Home Is Where Your Heart Is
I think the way Jackson, my parents' 6 ½-year-old Shnoodle, has reacted to The Big Move exemplifies the challenges we are all facing. Transitions, as I've noted previously, involve new adventures, but they also involve loss. For Jackson, it was the loss of the home that he had become accustomed to; he had felt safe there. That main loss is accompanied by secondary losses, such as the routines the dog had developed in my parents' old home, the places he hid his toys, the neighborhood dogs who barked with him, and the streets he walked every day. These secondary losses have accumulated to produce insecurity in him.

The emotional side of this kind of move can feel complicated. Again, Jackson illustrates this, as he joined our family from a rescue organization last January. He had been abandoned and possibly abused. We really don't know what he's been through, but this move, not so long after he came to his "forever home," really stirred up separation anxiety in him.

So for the first few weeks, we took him everywhere with us. The facility was accommodating, allowing me to eat with him in an activities room. They also served us dinner outside, where Jackson could join us. He stuck to us like glue. Even when I played the piano, he insisted on climbing on my lap!

Mom and Dad have experienced the primary loss of their long-time home, and the secondary losses of their routines, furniture, and other possessions they couldn't fit into the apartment. They've also lost roles, independence, and perhaps a part of their identity that was associated with being home owners. Along with these losses comes the recognition that other losses have taken place, such as the ability to care for a larger home. With change comes uncertainty, and perhaps a sense of insecurity, until family members forge new trails, feel comfortable, and—one hopes—become happy in their new home.

Like my parents, Jackson has begun to find some things to enjoy in his new home, such as looking out the window. He couldn't do that in their house. He has several new dog friends in the community, and I think he kind of likes his new fenced-in "playpen" (as the other residents call it).

On the second evening in their new home, I looked up from unpacking a box to find my parents dancing, as Elvis sang from the TV, "I can't help falling in love with you. ..." All my life, my parents have shown us through their spontaneous dances that affection is the norm. It was good to see them still dancing, and in that moment, I knew they'd make this place home, just as they have done everywhere they've lived. For them, home is about being together. They celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary a week after the move—quite an accomplishment. The anniversary clearly reminded us that in 59 years, they've weathered many changes. Surely they will weather this one and those to come, as well.

As for me, I'll be there advocating to make sure they have working sinks, comfortable chairs, a balance and variety of routines, quality care, a canine companion, mint-chocolate-chip ice cream in the freezer—and plenty of love.

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