We all know the story — last spring our lives changed in a way we could have never expected. The upstart of the COVID-19 pandemic influenced many changes. It changed how we live, work, and interact with one another. For some of us, it challenged our sense of safety and financial security, and made us wistful for days when we could hug our family members again or enter a grocery store without fear. But not all of the virus's impacts have been negative. The pandemic taught us to be grateful for our health (when we're fortunate to be in good health) and to value precious moments spent with family members and friends. It's forced us to slow down and appreciate the little things. And for me, it's helped me to become a more empathetic pet owner.
When the pandemic first started, I, like many others, saw a significant shift in the meaning of "home." Suddenly my house wasn't just home anymore. It became an office, a gym, a frequented restaurant, a bar, a movie theater, a place to (virtually) come together with family and friends, and so much more. And when home became all of those things and more, I suddenly started to get a very real sense of what life is like for my dogs. After spending over a year in isolation alongside my husband, recently arrived son, and two fur babies, I feel as if I've gotten a real glimpse into my dogs' minds and a taste for their day-to-day.
My husband and I both grew up with pets and have always strived to be the best pet owners possible. We've always fed our dogs top-quality food, taken them for frequent veterinary check-ups, provided them with toys, and loved them beyond measure. Living in town, we've always walked them whenever we could, taken them for occasional rides in the car, and tried our best to give them full, happy lives. We always did the best that we could. Now, a year into the pandemic, we try even harder.
A year into a life spent in isolation, and I'm realizing how maddening being cooped up in the same living space can be. Occasional walks are not enough. Infrequent car rides are not enough. The same toys day in and day out are not enough. We always did the best we could, but we never really understood what our dogs' lives are truly like. Now we do.
The pandemic has brought a lot of hurt, anxiety, and heartache, but I try my best to take away the positives. Spending a year isolated at home has given my husband and I newfound appreciation for what our dogs go through when they miss a walk outside one day or go too long without having visitors over at the house. Using it as a learning experience, we now walk our dogs every single day, usually several times a day. Car rides happen at least once a week, and an order of groceries never comes without a new toy also waiting for them in the package.
As we begin to see light at the end of the COVID tunnel, we'll see our lives begin to change again as well. We'll start participating in social events again, seeing our families, and, in some cases, returning to offices. It's my hope that life will change for the better as we all emerge from the haze with new learnings under our belt, including a better understanding of what life is like for our furry friends who don't have the liberty to control their own environment. A year spent in isolation has made me a more empathetic owner, and that's something I'll hold onto no matter what the future has in store.