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Lockdown Pet Adoption

May 20, 2020

Is it okay to point out something good stemming from this pandemic? Pet adoptions are way, way up. It seems everyone and their uncle is getting one, even people who never thought they might.

Count me among the converts.

I really wasn’t sure about getting a dog. Good old negativity bias kicked in, where you see all of the problems and none of the benefits. The costs. The responsibilities. The fact that no matter how much my kids promised they would contribute, I was sure my wife and I would be the ones doing the grooming, the feeding, the playing, the walking. We’ve got too much going on, I thought. We couldn’t hack it. No, no, no.

The kids had been working on us about a dog for over a year. As the days passed, they cut down each excuse with perfect kid logic. (“C’mon, Dad, we have to get a dog. You’re allergic to cats!”) My wife caved. I knew I was next. So I agreed to start looking.

Still, I wasn’t sure. Adopting a dog now? With all this distance learning? This quarantine has been rough on the whole family. We’re drained and worrying about the future. Maybe we’ll stay healthy, but what if something happens with work? No, we couldn’t afford a dog. It wouldn’t be right to take a rescue dog in and then back.

Then we met Rory.

His previous owners had gotten sick and could no longer care for him. The day I met him he hopped right up on me and fixed me with his big blues. I was grinning like an idiot under my mask before anyone else in the family saw him.

I know there are official therapy dogs out there. But I’m now convinced any dog — any pet — is therapeutic, both mentally and physically. If you’re run down, stressed, depressed, as so many people are, you should think about pet adoption. Seriously. You’d be doing both yourself and your future pet a solid.

Before Rory, we were isolation irritable. The endless time on computer screens and not knowing when this era of social distancing might end was doing us no good. We’ve only had Rory a short time, but that entire way of feeling about life now seems like a million years ago.

We’re calmer. We get out more. The kids are happier. Rory hasn’t just brought a little happiness to us. He’s brought something deeper. He’s brought joy.

Five minutes of stroking his ears or watching him chase a rubber ball and this world’s worries fade from view. On early mornings walks, I find myself asking him about the birds his ears perk up to hear, or talking to him about a blue sky with fat white clouds. I notice all these simple things and a million others I had been forgetting to pay attention to.

Rory makes us present. When I’m with him, I’m not dwelling on how our world got into this terrible mess. I’m not wondering how this pandemic might end. I’m right in the moment with him. Following my nose, and his, so to speak.

Animals are always in the here and now. The more time I spend with my new furry family member, the more I think human beings would be smart to follow their lead. Sniff around. Explore. Focus on the small things that poke out as beautiful. Realize that life is a series of steps, each just as meaningful as the one before if we’re mindful about how we live.

So yeah, there’s too much going on right now. It’s overwhelming. The only thing we can do is take it in chucks and do our level best until it’s over. Some moments will be better than others. And that’s okay.

One step at a time. My dog taught me that.

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