Animal love in the time of Corona

For those of you that have followed me for years, you will know I have two golden retrievers at home in South Carolina, that I am currently webcamming with to keep the love alive. This isn’t anything too new or exotic as we’ve done this for years, since I’m only home in the USA every two to three months. So, what usually keeps me going, during these long stretches of time between dog love ins with the goldens? It’s the affection I can lavish on the dogs I see out and about in London. In West London you’d be lucky to walk out your front door without a dog and owner passing. And it’s just an accepted politeness that, if your dog is friendly, you can expect people to stop and coo over them. And I do coo, more so than the average dog friendly person. I’m dog obsessed. Perhaps knowing this it won’t come as a huge surprise that, with the new world order, I’m having the toughest time with not being able to stop and pet passing pups. Just in case you aren’t in the know, and I do think education is key here, it has been advised that while dogs don’t get sick from Coronavirus, they can spread it with their fur. This means the disease can rest of their fur after someone coughs or sneezes near them, and can be passed on when another person goes to give your dog a cuddle, and vice versa.

I didn’t think I’d ever have to live in a world where loving on a dog could prompt exposure to a deadly virus. But, these are the new rules, the new lay of the land.

Anyway, I thought London was bad with a high population of pups, but I had no idea how much harder it would be in the country.

There hasn’t been a morning walk yet, where Steve and I haven’t crossed paths with a dog and its owner in the village. We always move to the other side of the street now, not because we are too tempted to touch the dog, but because we want to make sure we keep a safe distance from the owner. We are very mindful of the fact that we could be carriers of the virus but not be showing any symptoms, and the last thing we want to do is put anyone in danger, so we are keeping that social distancing to an extreme. That includes dogs! We can’t chance a quick ruffle of the head or a shake of the paw.

I didn’t actually realise how much this was playing on my mind until late last week when we found ourselves crossing a field. Steve saw a dog walker in the distance, with what he thought were two larger dogs. As they got closer, he whispered under his breath, “oh no.” As my gaze raised from the rough terrain to the horizon, my eyes focused on not two, but three golden retrievers merrily marching along the path directly towards us. We both stepped about fifteen feet to the left so there would be plenty of room between us for passing. As we got closer, I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. There were in fact two golden retrievers, and one golden retriever puppy. As we walked past, we said good morning and all three pulled on their leads to get closer to us. The woman, a senior citizen, said we could come and say hello and we both immediately clutched our hands behind our backs and said thank you but we had better not. I just kept thinking I couldn’t imagine being responsible for those three losing their mom due to our recklessness.

We walked away, got about twenty feet down the path and I burst into tears. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last, that I would spontaneously tear up. But, this was different. Even Steve welled up seeing me lose it in the middle of a field. All at once, everything about the state of the universe came crashing down on me, all because I couldn’t get down in the dirt and let three golden retrievers snuggle in. All I wanted was to be at home, with my own dogs, with my mom and dad, with all my friends, my family, safe and away from what is probably the scariest thing we’ve all every experienced in our lifetimes, for so many reasons.

I was lucky. In that moment, I had a man by my side that could tell me he knew exactly how I felt and promise me that one day this would all just feel like a bad dream. Even though I know no one can make that promise, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It was also followed by a, “don’t worry, darling, we will get some goldens of our own one day soon.” Result!

This is all just to say that while of course the biggest fear, and what’s on everyone’s minds right now, is the virus, there are little things that are changing that are having big effects on our mental state. Like I said previously, I never imagined a world where you couldn’t give a friendly pat hello to a passing dog. But here we are and that’s the way things are now. All we can hope for is a change, a progression in a cure, or something that will allow us to go out again… to hug again, to realise how lucky we all were with the life we had before.

For now, I’ll just leave you with this thought. If you are lucky enough to have a furry friend, please be mindful of who they are interacting with while out and about to keep yourself safe. But also, thank your lucky stars everyday that you have a faithful companion that will look after you just as you have looked after them all these years.

Oh, and just because I can’t touch any dogs or cats at the moment, it doesn’t mean I’m not capturing them whenever I get the chance with my camera, so here are a few moments I’ve saved from our walks over the past two weeks.

Stay strong, everybody and just keep thinking about that first hug you’re going to give when this is all over, whether it’s reserved for a friend of a four legged furry companion.

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