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  • Writer's pictureDan FitzPatrick

Dog in the Time of Corona(virus)

It has been a very strange year (that’s what my uncle Logan tells me is the human word for a period of four consecutive seasons). It hasn’t been bad; in fact, for Logan and me, it’s been great. Our human family has been home a lot more and we have been able to spend a great deal of quality time together. But everything seems a bit “off,” not quite normal. It’s hard to explain.

One example: for as long as I can remember, the eldest male human in our family would get up fairly early in the morning, dress up in a two-piece outfit with matching top and bottom with a long piece of colored cloth or some other material around his neck, feed us, and then leave in his car, only to return in the evening. He’d do this for about five days a week, and then for about two days he would sleep in, dress in different clothes, and generally be around for us. It was a routine that we were very used to.

At night, the eldest male and female humans would either stay home with us or go out, presumably to be with their friends. That tended to happen more regularly on the “casual dress” days. Logan and I treasured those nights when they stayed in.

Something happened about a year ago, and all this changed.

The eldest male human started staying home most every day, talking to his computer (I never knew it could talk!). He stopped wearing those two-piece outfits and that long piece of colorful cloth around his neck. He got up later than normal most every day, and even spent some mornings in his pajamas and robe. Once in a great while I would see him wearing the top part of his old outfit with pajama bottoms; that only happened when he was talking with his computer (I still can’t get over the fact that I didn’t know that thing could talk).

I know it sounds like I am focusing too much on clothing. Logan and I are fortunate in that our fur coats are designed to keep us comfortable in all environments, so we don’t have to deal with all the choices and changes that humans do. I do note, however, that during this past year the eldest male in our family seems to have tried to copy us by growing human fur on his face, but it keeps coming and going and never appears to amount to much. Lately, he seems to have abandoned the attempt.

Perhaps the biggest and best (from my perspective) change has been that every day is now like the old “casual dress” days. Our humans rarely go out of the house, even to get food or other supplies (everything now seems to come to the house in boxes -- they go in the front door and then end up in the back yard near a tall blue plastic container; the round trip seems crazy to me).

The eldest male human spent many hours building a garden in the back yard, which Logan and I loved to watch. A number of things started growing there, which made him very happy, but Logan and I didn’t have the heart to let him know how much was being eaten by the chipmunks, rabbits and crows. Fortunately, our family does not need to depend on that garden for food.

Another strange phenomenon: there have been a lot more people walking in our neighborhood, both with and without dogs. Logan and I like to sit in the middle of our back yard, or up against the fence that runs along the side facing the sidewalk, and watch (and sometime bark at) the passersby. It seems like many of the people walking by are not from our neighborhood, but it might be that we simply don’t recognize them because they all have pieces of cloth over the bottom of their faces. They walk alone or, more often, in groups of two or three. The people in the groups all talk to each other and seem to enjoy each other’s company. The single walkers tend to be intensely focused on something, usually looking at or talking to objects in their hands. Occasionally we will see a single walker, usually with something in his or her ears, talking animatedly to no one or nothing visible, but just to the air. We worry about the mental health of those people!

I like to think of myself as an intelligent and fairly sensitive dog, and I sense something is up. My humans have been talking about something they call a “vax-een.” They were pretty excited about it, and looking forward to getting it. Once they got it, they seemed very relieved about something. Their mood improved noticeably. They got up and got dressed earlier, and they seemed happier and more energized. They started talking about future plans, including traveling, and occasionally went out with friends who also had this vax-een. It seems to me that whatever it was that changed everything a year ago, is going to undergo a change itself.

I shared my thoughts with Logan, including my feeling that things were going to get back to the way they were before. Logan told me not to expect that, and then offered his own observations and insights, gained from many more years on this earth than I have.

“Cadbury,” he said, “all things change. Nothing remains the same, and it is unwise to expect to return to the past. But that is not necessarily bad, or sad. Life is a journey and the experiences we have on that journey change us, hopefully for the better. I expect that, once whatever it is that has been worrying our humans is over or gone, that much of what we enjoyed before will return, though perhaps different in form, or manner, or degree. I don’t know, for example, if the eldest male human in our family will dress up in his costume and be gone from the house for all those hours, as he did before. I’ll bet he ends up spending at least a good portion of time at home with us, though probably talking to that computer of his (isn’t it wild that that thing talks?!). The garden probably won’t get as much attention, and he and the eldest female human will probably go out a bit more at night, and even travel. But I suspect that they have come to enjoy being in the house they have made a home, and possibly even appreciate the two of us even more. The female human has been doing a lot more cooking this past year, and the male clearly enjoys her cooking. I think we will see less nights out and more nights home, including many entertaining friends who also have that vax-een thing.”

“So I believe we will return to a sort of normal life, maybe best described as the “new normal.” But I personally welcome that. Just as a tree or plant lives through the various seasons, over and over again, and changes for the better as a result, growing bigger and stronger and producing more leaves and fruit, so will we and our humans find that we have grown and matured through the experiences of the past year, and hopefully be the better for it. Don’t worry about the prospect of change, embrace it. It is a big part of what makes life worth living.”

“Now, if you don’t mind, I am going to go sit in the middle of the yard and watch all the people walk by. I might even amuse myself by counting the people who talk to the air.”

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