Home With Dogs: Getting Through the Pandemic
It is clear to me that having dogs has helped with the chaos. The future is uncertain and ambiguous, but each morning the dogs need to be fed, then they expect a walk and an early nap. More than once, as we practice physical distancing, I have followed their example. It’s not a bad schedule. I recommend it. Especially the early nap.
During the afternoons, the dogs are huddled around me in the kitchen while I bang away on the computer doing what is certainly a universal task, trying to figure out the byzantine bureaucracy of loans, grants, and when do we get that $600?
As an aside, I have learned more than I ever wanted to about working through banks and the federal government, but it is a sign of the times. It is also a small inconvenience when compared to the enormity of suffering that others are experiencing.
We have recently begun to adjourn to the living room couch to work. I think of us as a team; Nellie, our 8-year-old Berner, and Maisie Rose Thunderbolt, our excitable Chihuahua-Terrier mix. I sit on the couch, laptop on lap, and the dogs take up positions on either side of me. They seem to understand their job is to keep me calm and comfortable as I try to do family economics.
They are also the perspective providers. Merely by their presence and daily habits, they remind us that everything is basically, fundamentally okay. We have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and no one is sick. Today we are okay. As the Stoics remind us, that is all we can hope for. The past is over, the future is unknowable, but today we are alive and breathing. That, against the backdrop of our current times, is nothing to take for granted.
Since we are together now all day every day, I am much closer to our dogs. I better understand their idiosyncrasies. When Maisie is tired of humans, she goes to the farthest room in the house, finds blankets, and makes a nest. Nellie tends to stick close by, wanting to be within sight of one of us. When we walk, Nellie, who limps, trudges by my side while Maisie, all energy, is into every bush or patch of grass. At night, Maisie sleeps in our bed against my side, while Nellie, come hell or high water, prefers to sleep outside under our portal.
But being more observant is not something that I find myself applying only to our dogs. I am also much more introspective now — day after day of being home will do that. I find myself no longer thinking, “How could this happen?” It did, it is ongoing, and it will be with us for a while. We need to get over that. Now I find myself asking, “Am I tough enough to get through this?”
To answer, I remind myself that I — and you — are the descendants of generations of individuals who survived difficult and heart-breaking times. They didn’t ask for trouble; wars, the 1918 flu epidemic, the Depression, to name a few, but they were tough enough to survive. Nor did we ask for this trouble. But that is not how life works. No one gets a free pass. Whether on a global level or a personal one, we will all deal with trouble and tragedy. It is the way of the universe.
But, and here is the crucial point: we are tough beyond measure, we are the daughters and sons of those generations of heroes. Their genes, their stories infuse us. Now it is our turn.
It is true that it easy to lose this perspective under the deluge of bad news and screaming headlines. That is why it is essential to turn off the TV, get off social media, and take time every day to reflect on the fact that you come from that heroic stock, and you are tough enough to prevail.
Will it be hard? Yes. Will there be tragedies? Yes. But we will get through this, and then we will say this was our finest hour.
When I walk our dogs, this is the mantra that I repeat to myself: We are tough enough to get through this. Our dogs walk alongside me and remind me that to be outside in New Mexico is glorious. It is a gift. We can get through this.
Be brave. Be kind. Be useful.