Pandemic, with dogs

Ken Foster
5 min readAug 5, 2020

Quarantine changed my relationship with my dogs. What happens if things go back to normal?

This morning, when I reluctantly got out of bed and headed to the bathroom, Bananas was at my side. She was scampering. She made eye contact with me, as if to say, “Don’t dally, we have things to do.” In dog training, learning to make eye contact is the key to giving your dog the appropriate cues and commands. Now she had mastered this in reverse. It was Day 129 of our pandemic quarantine and, during that time, it seemed everything had changed.

We went downstairs to head to the yard and wake up the other dogs along the way. Bananas is just one of nine. It’s a long story. Nine dogs is not ideal. Nine dogs was never a goal. But things happened, and nine dogs moved in, each of them supposedly temporary, until we all started growing old together and lost our appeal to anyone who might take us — human or dog — in.

Back in my upstairs bedroom, Doug wasn’t moving. I called him again. After a few minutes he reluctantly appeared. Pre-pandemic, Doug would have been down the stairs before me, impatiently waiting at the door to get outside. Now, half the time, he just doesn’t bother. Back then, Bananas had been the little princess who spent her days curled up in my bed, waiting for me to return from work. Now, she sleeps all day in an undersized dog bed at my feet while I work from home. She follows me from room to room, managing my days. And this morning, on our way back upstairs, she took the lead, glancing back at me to make sure I was following.

But it’s not just these two that have redefined their roles. Rooney and Tonga have been able to play so long and hard that Rooney can’t move for a day. Buster, a three-legged pit bull with kidney problems, has never been healthier. Ani and Etta, the geriatric sisters, are back at an ideal weight after growing skinny with age over the winter. Dominick, a gray-faced chow-lab, and Paul, the Rottweiler, are, as always, just themselves.

What’s going to happen to all of us if I ever leave the house again? Panic will set in, as I saw the other night when I headed downstairs for a drink just as a storm began to roll in. When I returned minutes later, Doug was already clawing at the upstairs door. Doug! Doug, who was born and raised in storm-ridden New Orleans! Doug, who…

Ken Foster

Author of fiction and non-fiction; dog guy; bad boxer. New book, City of Dogs, is just out now from Avery/Penguin.