We've all been instructed about the "empty nest syndrome"—that period of complex feelings in mothers and fathers—after the last child leaves home for good and all. Over the past year, during which my own youngest child departed for college, I've been very much aware of how my friends were coping with that period. My conclusion is that it ought to be called not "empty nest" but "the empty doghouse syndrome."
Every family in America has been indoctrinated with the idea that kids and dogs go together. So, what happens to the family dog when the kids go off? Well, I know of one family whose ancient beagle died just before the youngest child married. As a farewell gift to his parents, the groom presented them with a beagle puppy, "so they wouldn't be lonely." The parents are fuming. "After all those years of looking after kids and dogs," they say,