Three Bitches and a Pandemic

Tawny living her best life

BY KIMBERLY MAYER

“Put on your hard pants and your travel jacket: Life is coming for you,” Susan Orlean submits in her post “Will Normal Feel Normal Again?”. “I didn’t believe that a year of living differently would suddenly reset my sense of normal,” she writes. “I imagined I would see it as an anomaly, and that as soon as it was safe to return to normal, I would do so, lickety split, and it would feel regular and ordinary. But it doesn’t.” 

Nor should it. This is a story of how quarantining for a year affected our dogs too. We were the lucky ones if we weren’t in it alone, and our dogs benefitted too. Any good owner can tell you how much more attached their dog is now, something we may not have thought possible.

This is a tale of three dogs: Charlie, Tawny, and Fiona. The only reason my own dog, Coco, didn’t make this list is that I cut it off at three. One day Coco will have a post to herself if she hasn’t already.

Charlie, a yellow Labrador Retriever, has been with my daughter since university in Seattle. With her family now in San Diego, Charlie is considered the “first born” even though a child has come along since. Thirteen years old and arthritically challenged in the back hips, fortunately for Charlie, my daughter and her husband were already working remotely at home well before the pandemic hit. Living on one level across from a park has been ideal for both baby and dog. Charlie has good company and assistance whenever she needs it, getting up, getting out, and going for a ride. Golden years.

My other daughter’s life was turned upside down by the pandemic and a landlord who decided to move back into his family home. After leaving Brooklyn in the summer, she and her husband worked remotely from San Juan Island, Washington and then embarked on a slow trek of locations first down the west coast, then across the country, eventually circling back to New York City this spring.

Nomads of the Pandemic, we call them. And in all this time and over all this distance, their Brittany Spaniel has only been left alone a handful of times. “Everywhere we go, Tawny creates a new little routine,” they tell me.

The couple planned their drive time around a chain of truck stops that my daughter assures me frequently have dog parks. I find it hysterical that for years I looked askance at LOVES, thinking them adult/erotic bookstores. Instead, LOVES truck stops, privately owned and headquartered in Oklahoma, host convenience or “country stores” in 41 states. And unbeknownst to me, my daughter and son-in-law and Tawny were regular customers all year.

Fiona was adopted in July of last summer by friends in Laguna Beach who had resisted owning a dog because “we worked too much and traveled a lot.” Prior to the pandemic they added a residence, a 500+ year old home made of stone in the medieval village of Flivigny sur Ozerain, France. The two of them were at the top of their game balancing careers in California and, flying back and forth, overseeing a restoration in France, when the pandemic changed everything. Suddenly they were working at home in Laguna. 

Meanwhile, Fiona, a hound mix in The Carolinas, was having one misadventure after another. Abandoned as a puppy after her owner was arrested in a crack house and another dog tore her ear, “Fiona was almost put down that night,” my friends tell me. A woman rescued her and Fiona rebounded. Then rebounded again after that woman left The Carolinas to care for her mother in Laguna Beach, bringing Fiona with her, only to find she couldn’t keep her dog. That’s when my friends stepped in, and Fiona fell right into their lives. “… we were in love and she came to our house. That was it. She had those big brown eyes…” 

Like so many dogs in the pandemic, Fiona is “… rarely out of our sight, sleeping next to me in the mornings near my desk while I work and next to Bill in an overstuffed chair in the afternoons while he works.” When he goes back to the office, “Bill plans to take her to work with him. Now we can’t imagine going to France… without her.”

Over and over we hear what Fiona’s owners say, “… because of COVID she has literally been with one or both of us constantly since July.” Charlie, Tawny, Fiona, they’ve all been living their best lives this past year. Pack animals, with everyone under one roof.

So as we “put on our hard pants and travel jacket” and start to go out in the world, remember to bring them with us. And the world we’ll find is more welcoming to them than it was before. Restaurants, shops, hotels, nearly everything is dog friendly now. May it stay this way. Insist on it. 

We owe it to our dogs.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Three Bitches and a Pandemic

  1. Tracy Ahrens

    Our little cockapoo could be dog number 5 on your list. She is the same age as your Coco. She loves having us for the past year. Goes from room to room spending equal time with us. She has trained us so that my husband takes her for a walk in the morning, I talk her for a walk in mid afternoon and my son takes her for the last one of the day when dinner is cleaned up. If she could bring her leash to the correct walker she would. As it is she just comes up to us and nudges us with her nose. I often wonder what she did with herself all those years when we were out of the house all day?

  2. martinrhna

    Great essay. Coco definitely deserves a blog of her own. We miss her (and you and Paul).

  3. calborg

    I have been enjoying your blog for quite a while. In fact, you have been an inspiration for me to start my own.
    Here is the link to my first blog post:
    http://www.conchaalborg.com/welcome-to-epilogues-epilogos
    Warmly, Concha

    • Concha! You are the Concha I met on a writing retreat in Tuscany years ago, are you not? I always meant to stay in touch with you and I’m delighted to reconnect. I want to read all your books and pieces. You know I live out on San Juan Island now, where every day is like a writing retreat. Please email me at kmayer101@msn.com

  4. Deborah Derrick

    Exactly! Brutus rarely leaves my side these days!

  5. Beth Ahrens Yourgrau

    Keep writing. Love your blogs

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