The pandemic and this year’s relentless stream of scarier-than-any-true-crime news is doing strange things to many of us.
I had two dogs when it started. Now I have three. Desperate times call for desperate measures is what I’m telling people. This new dog was irresistible—as a puppy, she’s almost embarrassingly cute, Hallmarkian in a way that I do understand could make even the most faithful dog-aficionado cringe.
So why not just go the extra mile? I figured. Why not name her Ruth and buy her a customized dog tag and a little lace collar for Halloween, even though that collar is never going to last until then if she keeps chewing on it?
Cliché much? Aside from my tripling down on the trend, there’s nothing all that special, of course, in my besottedness. The race to adopt or buy puppies is so pervasive that some have likened it to the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of 1985. Shelters and breeders alike are making wanna-be owners get on waiting lists lasting well into 2021.
The reasons are clear. At a time when we’re craving novelty—or rather, a gentler form of novelty than reports on the pending election and COVID-19—puppies offer an antidote of joy: a clownishness that has nothing to do with what’s happening in Washington. At a time when we’re longing for hugs, they provide 24/7 warm embraces.
It seems necessary at this point to clarify that Ruth has been my only quarantine folly. I have not been Instagramming my home-made sourdough or sterilizing my mail, or even planning a Zoom Thanksgiving. Other than Ruth, hours and hours of phone-banking—okay, and binge-watching reruns of “The West Wing”—have been my only methods of coping with this moment’s high anxiety.
Still, even as we drift into our ninth month of COVID, I’ve promised my tolerant husband that there will be no fourth dog. I made that promise this morning, after I stepped barefoot onto one of Ruth’s dissenting opinions. Even in a pandemic, cute has its limits.
Copyright © 2020 Katherine Ellison
Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author and co-author of ten non-fiction books. Her op-eds and news features have appeared in major media including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek and the Atlantic. She writes mainly about mental health and climate change and has a niche ID as a public-speaking advocate for de-stigmatizing ADHD. She lives in Northern California with her husband, dogs and now, thanks to the coronacoaster, their college-going son. Her most recent book is Mothers & Murderers: A True Story of Love, Lies, Obsession…and Second Chances