Fortunately I’ve a canine

Black Friday – or Buy Nothing Day, depending on your inclinations and beliefs – came to our house this year when my eight-year-old son was yelling on Discord with some friends while playing Minecraft (or possibly between us, or maybe it was Roblox). or maybe they took turns between the three?) and my mother, who moved in with us a few years ago, on an animated zoom call with her knitting group.

I tried to take a nap, but it was too loud to sleep. I tried playing my music on my headphones, but that made it even louder. This scenario has been the soundtrack of my 1,600-square-foot home for nine months, especially since I lost my job in June. My mother has zooms for her job (deaconess in the episcopal church), for the many boards she sits on, and for her hobby (knitting). My son has zooms at school and spends the rest of the time talking to his friends online as much as possible while he plays, the pandemic version of a game date.

Sometimes his friends' parents and I give in and go for a masked walk with two or three of them or play in the nearby school playground when nobody else is around. But we live in a Covid hotbed and very little feels safe, especially when we consider family members in risk groups.

So it's very, very noisy in my house for a very long time and I am a person who has spent most of my adult life on my own. Some days it gets so bad that I think I might go out of my mind. Then I remember that fortunately I have a dog.

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Today I got up from the nap, put on my boots, a coat and a mask, put my cell phone and some poop bags (because you never know) in my pocket and said: “Sophie, do you want? to go for a walk?"

And of course she wanted to go for a walk. She is a dog. (When I ask her about walks, I often think of the cartoon from The Far Side, in which several dogs look up at the person who is getting their food and say, “Oh boy, dog food again!” She is a scared eater, but she is always ready for a go). I put her leash on her collar and we were on our way. I had brought water and a bowl with the idea that we could get in the car for a hike, but she was mindful of the neighborhood.

Sophie feels that she has a lot of territory to deal with every day and realizes that the eastern route needs to be maintained. I prefer the other directions because of their architectural interest and lack of proximity to fast food, but she loves a good walk to McDonald's (and the P&G plant for some reason), even if I never pick it up.

Sophie came to us in May. Everyone said, "Oh, you have a pandemic dog!" and I would explain again that for two years we have been looking for a dog again and again because we needed a very specific dog for our unusual family. Sophie showed up at just the right time.

Then people say, "Oh, what kind of dog did you get?" and I say, "A dog." She is a 40 pound black dog with a white mark on her chest. My son says that's where she gets her strength. She has a plum tail and pointy ears that tip over. She has a long nose and a thick double coat, and when I first met her in the back yard of her foster mother's house, she came right over and leaned against my leg. The rescue listed her as a Flat-Coated Retriever; The vet classifies them as "Lab / Retriever / Mixed Breed". Most of the people they meet think that she is at least part of a border collie.

We are a headstrong and obstinate family, a people exposed to argument and negotiation and harboring grudges (and a certain amount of good-natured teasing). They say that dogs look like their people: I say that they act like them. Sometimes, when Sophie has mastered a new command, she does so and then looks at me curiously. "Look, I'm sitting. Don't I get a reward? Look, I'm down. Where's my pleasure? Look, came and you didn't even call me! Treat!" The way I feel, I deserve awards every time I manage to fix a small computer problem.

Sophie will stage a sit-in on a walk if I want to go one way and she wants to go another, and my son will spend two hours arguing with you instead of doing the simplest task. But they both forget that I am the one who was arrested six days after a sit-in, and I can make anyone persistent if I remember to keep my cool.

Sophie reminds me to be patient and persistent, calm and gentle. Your interactions with the house cats are endlessly entertaining. She snuggles up to me when I take a nap. And every day when the world gets too much, she reminds me that we have to go for a walk.

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