One of the crazy things about this perpetual lockdown we are experiencing this year has been the isolation and solitude that has impacted many of us. We stay at home, socializing is a fading memory (unless it is one of the Zoom meetings everyone wants to choke down our throats), and though we cannot help being connected by fiber optic filaments and radio signals, in our little boxes, we are starved of that connection we used to have.
Recently, my living situation changed and I have move back to the town where I grew up. It is about 60 miles from the nearest anything, unless you count mountain peaks, rolling sage-covered hills, and the sharpest blue sky you’ll ever see in your life. The place where I have lived for the last six years was a nice little house in a Front Range suburb, but over the years I have lived there, I have soaked nearly $90k into it that I will never see again. This is why you buy instead of renting, kids. With my lease up, and no job prospects in the area, I decided to move back to where I grew up. The ancestral family home was vacant for years and needed just a little TLC to get it back up to being homey again. It needs more work, but that will come gradually. My son makes the sixth generation of my family to live here.
One of the nice things about moving is in this time of isolation, I no longer have to abide by the requirements of the lease which forbid a pet of any kind. In the weeks when my son is with his mom, it gets lonely. It has for a long time, but this year in particular, I think everyone has felt the tension, the isolation, even more acutely.
In late December, my aunt who lives in Washington told my mom about a yellow lab her son picked up in a field near their home, which has been a notorious dumping ground for unwanted pets. She was up to four dogs herself so when she suggested I take the four month old pup, I didn’t hesitate.
I’ve been a dog person for my whole life and when I left my marriage, I didn’t get any of our dogs in the settlement. Even though both of them were technically my birthday presents from two different years. It would have been a lot of fight over something I couldn’t even have at the house where I was living. I’ve been pet free for six years. There are times when you miss having a dog around. A quiet night at home alone when you just wish you could pet your dog while watching TV and of course when you accidentally drop a fried egg on the floor.
The big question is who the hell abandons puppies during this lockdown? Pure LAB PUPPIES. The animal shelters in Colorado have been on two month waiting lists for adoptions. Everyone is feeling the loneliness and since they are all stuck at home, they figure they should get a dog or something.
So, my mom and I loaded up in the car and drove to meet her sister halfway in Burley, Idaho. When we got there, my aunt had this timid, tiny yellow lab on a leash who barked at me when we walked up. I thought, “Oh, crap. I just drove five hundred miles for a dog that doesn’t even like me.” That night, after the pup had warmed up to me, she slept on my bed at the hotel. And proceeded to puke on the bed in the middle of the night.
She’s getting used to the house, the same as my son and me. She fetches for hours, barks at strangers, until they become friends, and takes herself for walks. If I’m not going fast enough when I take her on a walk, she takes a length of leash in her mouth and pulls me along behind her. Today, I wasn’t paying enough attention when she was asking to go outside, so she pulled my jacket off the hook and dragged it to the front door.
“Come on, dad. This is how we do things!”
Yesterday she played with three French Bulldogs my good friends have. It was a mass of dogs just rolling all over the floor. Panting, covered in slobber, having a blast. She slept nearly the whole three hour drive home.
Having Penny has enriched our lives, and as my son says, “We’re a complete family now!” There is something about our animals that brings us together. Just like fire in a hearth or the scent of bread baking. Maybe they connect us to the land again. Maybe they give us what people find almost impossible to give: unconditional, selfless love. It’s worth the middle of the night walks and sometimes a little puke on the bed.
Totally worth it.