After the Covid-19 curve flattens and pandemic passes, it will be a miracle if I emerge without a puppy.
As any freelance writer whose business has taken a hit during this disease-driven shut-down, I should be hustling work (or at least cleaning out my files). Instead, I’m trolling dog adoption websites.
What need, pardon the pun, am I trying to scratch? And how is it, less than a year after losing our high-maintenance, 14-year-old family mutt, and commanding friends to shoot me if I even mentioned wanting another dog, that I am veering so close?
I didn’t become a dog lover until we adopted our pitch-black lab-hound, and that love was hard won. At 86 pounds, George moved through our small house like a slow-moving cyclone, whacking plants and wine glasses off low tables with a single flick of his meaty tail, leaving puddles wherever he drank, and muddy paw prints wherever he walked. Even at rest he wreaked havoc, his massive feet scratching away sheetrock in the dining room corner where he sleep-ran. His fine black hairs landed everywhere, including the cream cheese. And the putrid smell that his overly exuberant anal glands emitted, some cross between poop and the hormonal stink of male puberty, clung to him and everything his rump touched.
Yet, he infused every day with comfort and joy, snoozing nearby while I worked or read, and whoo-whooing along with passing sirens, matching them pitch for pitch. George was always up for a hike in the hills and like a good coach, he pushed me to ignore fatigue and keep up with his long-legged stride. He brought togetherness to my marriage, refusing to walk with just my husband or me when he knew that we were both home. Just having him in the room made us gentler with each other, since he’d skulk away at the first sound of an angry word. As soon as he saw either of us, he would stomp a happy dance and lean his heft against our legs.
I need that kind of joy now. During these anxious, isolated days, I need the wag of a tail to ease my nerves.
I need to feel needed. With clients and colleagues vanishing into the ether, I pine for a pooch, whose most pressing thoughts are: “When will you take me out?” or, “When will you feed me next?”
I need unconditional love, the sort that my husband and son can’t provide with restrictions on life and the fear of contagion making me selfish and cranky.
I need optimism. The minute-by-minute news updates on coronavirus are important but they’re wearing me down. I need hopefulness. That was one of George’s best gifts: no matter how bad a day I had or how sour my mood, he would press into me, making it impossible for me to do anything but hug him. I could use that right now.
Although my house and heart are full, the world feels empty and fragile as coronavirus rages, and I pine for a dog to assure me in these fraught times that everything will be okay.
Andrea Kott is the author of the memoir, Salt on a Robin’s Tail: An Unlikely Jewish Journey Through Childhood, Forgiveness, and Hope (Blydn Square Books).