An adjustment for people and pets alike

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 4/3/20

Of the various worries I’ve been sorting, collating and trying to resolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, some have centered around our pets.

We have two — a dog, Bella, and a cat, Ophelia, whom …

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An adjustment for people and pets alike

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Posted

Of the various worries I’ve been sorting, collating and trying to resolve during the COVID-19 pandemic, some have centered around our pets.

We have two — a dog, Bella, and a cat, Ophelia, whom we often refer to simply as “the girls” — and both are a central part of our family.

Sometimes, like when we’re planning a vacation and have to figure out their care and feeding during our absence, we wonder why we have them at all; but when we return home after those vacations and find the girls so eager and happy to see us, we remember why.

Bella isn’t much use for home security detail, unless squirrels ever attempt a coup. She fancies interaction with humans — any human; she once tried to hop in a pizza delivery guy’s car — too much to earn her keep as a watchdog, but she makes up for that minor failing with a deep pool of unconditional love and an ear always open to listening. Sometimes neurotic, often awkward, she’s nevertheless ours and with us is precisely where she belongs.

Ophelia, conversely, isn’t such a great listener — her strong will and relative independence place her a bit lower than her canine sibling on the warmth scale — though she’s excellent with indoor security. She can, for instance, hone in with razor-like precision on the occasional stray bug that finds its way into our house. Unlike her older sister, Ophelia is largely free of neurosis and much too lithe and agile to ever be called awkward, but she, too, is ours and she’s precisely where she belongs with us occasionally awkward and neurotic humans as her house mates.

We love them both — as they seem to love us — in spite of (or is it because of?) their quirks, and in the early stages of the developing COVID-19 crisis, when I overheard an anecdotal account (that I later decided was, at best, stretching the truth) of pet food flying off of store shelves as if it was toilet paper, I worried about our ability to feed them. It didn’t help that, when this disturbing account of the pet food supply landed on my ears, we were already running low on our household supply of kibble, which was of greater concern to me than any shortage of toilet paper.

“What about pet food?” I asked a friend, who’d just freshly navigated the grocery stores, and whose observations I valued. His reassurance that pet food wasn’t in short supply did a lot to assuage my worries, and as soon as able, I replenished our supply.

It meant one less worry.

Then came our sheltering-in-place.

My wife Jessica, a teacher, was the first of the two humans in our house to shelter in place, after the initial call to cancel school; a week later, I joined her, working from home.

In my initial fears about our pets’ bellies, I hadn’t thought about their brains. But a few days into our self-quarantining, I realized that Bella and Ophelia, though neither could be unsettled by news reports, were both sensing that something was up, something was off.

I don’t credit either animal with supernatural skills. Maybe it was merely the change in their routines that had them seeming a tad out of sorts. Accustomed to their people venturing out five mornings out of seven and staying away for most of the day, the girls have their own routines. I don’t know exactly what those routines are, not normally being there to observe, but I suspect those routines involve quality sleep time. With their parents suddenly home 24/7, their routines were disturbed.

The change in their behavior, although subtle, was evident. Bella, already a social butterfly, became more clingy. Ophelia, too.

Jessica set up her home office in a room we call “the office,” which is where our desk is and a large chunk of our book collection resides. I set up my “office” at the kitchen table.

In these days of COVID-19, as we do our part to attempt to stop the spread of this scary disease by limiting our movements, instead of leaving the house, locking up and commuting to work, Jessica and I are kissing good-bye in the living room before parting for our respective new work stations.

In what has become her new routine, Bella follows Jessica to her office, stretching out on the carpeted floor to keep her company as she works.

Ophelia sticks close to me in the kitchen. Yes, her food is there, but I’d like to think she’s also drawn to my new office thanks, in part, to my charm.

Whatever is behind it, the girls seem to need us now more than ever, and having them around is helping us adjust too.

As each day passes and we all grow a little more used to this odd reality, it’s still a weird situation. It still sometimes catches me off guard. It still feels, at times, like a dream.

Worldwide, everybody is adjusting to this sudden new reality.

Even, I believe, our four-legged friends.

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