A significant part of my daily staying-at-home routine includes walking my dog—who, at age nine, is an interesting mixture of a bouncy young puppy and an ancient canine who can do no more than lie on the floor and groan. Thankfully, she still gets excited to go on walks, and it’s a refreshing part of my day to take her out. However, the nature of our walks have significantly changed since the COVID-19 pandemic spread to the state I live in.
Today, walking down the street is rather like playing a game of Tetris. People shift to the left, or the right, cross the street, climb telephone poles, tightrope-walk on telephone lines, or take refuge in the nearest trash can in order to stay six feet away from people that are also walking outside, as the CDC recommended. Only last week I was forced to pole vault across a busy road in order to avoid passing through a crowd of people coming towards me on the sidewalk.
Deciding who will move out onto the street, who will scale the nearest street lamp, and who will continue walking on the sidewalk normally has become an interesting game of “chicken”. The person walking towards me and I lock eyes when we’re about sixty five feet away from one another, and as we get closer and closer together we shout various ambiguous and menacing statements at one another in an attempt to get the other to move off the sidewalk instead of ourselves.
“I live in a household of seventy-three!” I shout down the street.
“I visited a busy hospital for a broken finger last week!” My opponent yells back.
“You don’t want to come near me, I can’t control my sneezes at all. They just erupt out of me like a volcano. My dog too. She sneezes in sync with me.”
Eventually, one of us will move out of the way, and the cycle repeats itself every fifteen feet or so. It’s exhausting, but the fresh air is worth it.
Walking my dog during the COVID-19 pandemic has shown me some interesting sights. I see people having brunch with their stepsisters, one person on either side of a busy road, toasting each other from sixty feet away. I see dogs trained to cough into the crook of their tail, and people playing catch with bottles of hand sanitizer.
Despite all the new sights, it is one of the best parts of my day to get outside. Sometimes, I’ll even attempt to go on runs with my dog—though she can only run about two inches before needing to stop for a rest break in the grass. Most of the time we’ll just walk around the neighborhood, through the nearby park, up and over hills, or on a treadmill in place for about an hour with a picture of a cat taped to the wall in front of her.
To me, the COVID-19 pandemic and staying at home has made life very strange and different, but to my dog, it’s become a million times better. Now, she has several trained petting assistants in the house with her at all times, multiple walks a day because nobody knows if she’s been walked yet, endless supplies of scraps, and owners who actually MUST stay in the house with her at all times. It’s dog heaven.