Monday, May 18, 2020

Isolation is Emotionally Exhausting; Or, the Story of how We Adopted a Puppy during the Pandemic (Lyons-McFarland)

Her name is Terri. It’s actually Asteria, after the Greek Titan of falling stars and divination (making Terri the Dog of Stars) but Terri is good for everyday use. She answers to it most of the time. She is fifteen weeks old as of this writing.

We did not intend to adopt a dog. Our eldest dog, Si (Poseidon), was only nine, but he died suddenly earlier this year of an apparent heart attack. We were down to two dogs, and that seemed enough at least for now. My husband’s co-worker had a friend who fostered dogs for the Friendship Animal Protection League, and she showed him pictures of small fluffballs in February, far too young for adoption, and we thought, no, not now. Perhaps this summer, when we are home enough.

Right before the lockdown, though, she contacted us again. The puppies were eight weeks old and all but one had been adopted. The shelter was closed due to Covid-19 and this pup’s time with her foster family was coming to an end. Might we be interested in fostering, if not adopting? She was a black ball of floof with bright eyes, white toes, and a white blaze on her chest you could see from space. Neither of us is made of such stern stuff as to tell that face no.

We arranged to meet in a park with our other two dogs present (Artemis and Sandhya), while parks being open was still a thing. They all got along famously. We took her home with us, and before the day was out she was most certainly joining our family. My husband’s kids were with us, and they fell in love with her as well.

So here we are, puppy and all, our own pack with house and yard and family isolating together. And yet, not all is as we bargained for. For starters, said fifteen-week-old puppy is now thirty lbs. Terri is likely to be as big as at least one of her packmates within a month. We managed to get her to the vet this past week for her first visit, and she confirmed that Terri likely has a significant amount of Newfoundland in her. She needs to be put on giant breed puppy food and we need to start thinking of her not as an adorable floof, but as a dog that will be bigger than some adults and train her accordingly. Fortunately we have the space and yard and time to accommodate her, but it was not what we expected.

So much about these past weeks is not what we expected. Just as with Terri, I am still attempting to wrap my mind around the enormity of the situation we’re all in – larger and more persistent than anyone could have imagined, with some utterly overwhelmed and at risk, while others are able to shelter-in-place in comfort and ride out this storm. This is the first time in my life I fall into the latter category rather than the former, and it’s a daunting bit of knowledge – both in terms of the responsibility for raising and caring for a Dog of Enormous Size (we didn’t know her doggie heritage when we named her after a Titan, but it does seem a bit foreshadow-y) and in knowing so many are at risk while I am (guiltily) fairly safe. I wear a mask I made from my old fabric stash and limit my excursions from my house and devote my time to trying to be there for my students, but in the end, there is so little I can actually do to help.  

The joy of a pandemic puppy, though, is in the constant reminder that there are still good things, and they will persist even into a future I cannot imagine. She is gentle and loving and adores treats and tolerates being brushed, and these are all things I can wrap my head around and handle now, in the moment, where I cannot fix so many things, but I can take care of my dogs, and my husband, and care for my friends and students online. With any luck, that’ll be enough for now. 

Michelle Lyons-McFarland is a lecturer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she teaches professional communication and literature. Her research interests are Eighteenth-century British Literature, Material Culture, and Book History, and she is currently in pursuit of an eventual descriptive bibliography of Charlotte Lennox, assuming we can ever go to special collections libraries again in this life.

1 comment:

  1. Ooooo lucky you, lucky her. Always better to get a dog when you are home a 24 hours a day!