Looking back, it may not have been the best idea to get a puppy right after replanting our entire backyard. In the course of managing COVIDoldrums, they both just seemed like smart, unrelated projects to occupy our time.
Even as I type this, though, there’s a muddy-muzzled, filthy-pawed, remorseless little furball on the pale rug beside me gnawing maniacally on one of the five plants she uprooted today and lugged into my office, dirt clods and all.
It’s not like we needed a puppy. We have a perfectly good adult dog already, and our life was pleasantly predictable. We could sleep through the night. We could open our front door without fear of any residents escaping. Our hands were not covered in lacerations from tiny, “YOW!”-inducing needle teeth.
But when it became clear that life outside of our wearisome walls would not be resuming anytime soon, we joined thousands across the nation and took this quaran-tunity to adopt a furry friend.
The ASPCA reported an increase of 400 percent in foster applications during the first two months of COVID, and one of the local shelters told me that they, too, had four times more inquiries this summer than usual. Why are so many folks hankering for a pandemic pet? Brilliant pragmatism: Hell, we’re stuck at home anyway — might as well be training a critter. And admitted desperation: Okay, look, we’re lonely and need something to love us hard.
But it’s hard to find a dog when the whole world wants one! I had multi-page applications in every shelter for 150 miles, got daily alerts from petfinder.com, and took several screener calls from discerning volunteers. They phoned my references and asked me for videos of our backyard fence line and photos of the latches on our gates. I’ve had job interviews that weren’t as grueling.
Then one morning we awoke to find a local nonprofit had a litter of puppies rescued from a backyard breeder who was outraged because her bitch had “let any ole male dog get on her.”
Yep, that’s right. She slut-shamed her cockapoo.
There were over 50 applications for these half-dozen pups, and we hit the jackpot and brought one home. Our family has always had dog-sized dogs, and this one … well, she’s less like a canine than a squirrel. And because of the tiny food and mini-collar I bought online, Instagram keeps feeding me ads for dog purses. Purses that you carry a dog in, you guys. What has this year done to me? First I’m homeschooling, now I’m pursedogging?? Someone please intervene before I take up cosplay.
We named her Ziggy in honor of the late David Bowie; she shares his “snow white tan” and is inarguably, unfairly adorbs. There are definitely moments — usually at 3 am when I’m standing in the dark, wet fog, repeating the word “potty” to an animal that doesn’t speak English — when I wonder what the mutt we were thinking. For the most part, though, this minor mongrel — aka The Ziglet, Zigfield Follies, or Zig Zig Sputnik — is a welcome distraction from the world’s worries. She’s the fluffy, mischievous embodiment of everything we’ve been devoid of for six months: Exuberance. Innocence. Pure joy. At a time when it’s easy to fixate on things we can’t control, it’s a relief to have something that requires our immediate attention. And someone who wants us to protect her … from things we can actually protect her from. Like the vacuum cleaner.
To be honest, in this suspended global moment, things like brushing my hair and eating a balanced meal feel pointless some days. And yet somehow, teaching a six-pound beastie how to sit, fetch, and ba-doing, ba-doing down a summit of stairs feels productive, doable, and worthwhile.
It reminds me of when my kids were babies: The disrupted sleep. The constant “what’s she doing now??” The managing of someone else’s poop. In this monotonous Groundhog Day loop, it’s fun to chart the passage of time, to see growth and change, in the daily developments of someone brand new to the world.
Of course, my kids didn’t dig up our garden.… But they’d also never have fit in my purse.
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