Novelist | Singer
Let’s face it. We’re all suffering from Covid hangover. Peak Covid time was tougher, but somehow it has derailed my sense of time. I can no longer remember how long ago things occurred within the past several years. Have you noticed that events are either pre-Covid or post-Covid? I’ll bet you’ve used that yourself to track times and events. We’re all still caught up in it or what it laid on us. A PANDEMIC. We had a pandemic. Something we naively considered unimaginable in these modern times. Pandemics are for history, a time in the past when medicine was not yet evolved. The gods are laughing.
Who was in your Covid bubble? For many, it was family. For my husband and me—each other. We held hands daily as we watched the results of the day’s lives lost on the screen. Prickly sensations would travel up my back. Were we next? How far would this go? It felt like Armageddon.
Jane and I have known each other from our writers’ group since 2011. We saw each other at writers’ group every other week, and beyond that, almost not at all. Maybe we’d see each other out and about in Gloucester, usually at some cultural event or art show opening. Covid cemented our friendship.
We both had old dogs before Covid. Jane had Rocky, a sturdy Westie/Scottish Terrier cross. I had Lila, a rescued Australian Shepherd with a stern personality for strangers, yet playful and fun with my husband Al and me. She came by that personality rightfully—the people who gave her away (which still blows my mind, considering the great dog I came to know) kept her in a crate wearing a shock collar for close to two years. She was smart and crafty and needed engagement and a job. And she could bark—oh boy.
Jane, Rocky, Lila and I walked together occasionally. The dogs were ambivalent toward each other, or maybe they were just old. Eventually Lila stopped being able to walk very far, and I went with Jane and Rocky. Then suddenly in January of 2020, Rocky developed a large tumor and poor Jane had to send him across the Rainbow Bridge. Shortly after, Covid raged across the country and left us isolated in our houses staring at our TV screens, reading books we weren’t particularly interested in, and choosing new hobbies that lost their appeal within weeks. Let’s be truthful—Covid was rough. I had an overwhelming feeling of panic that I fought day and night. We were scared to leave the house. I spoke to friends on the phone, stumbled through the steep learning curve of Zoom and Teams, and we all pretended we were patient and relaxed, when actually we were exhausted from stress, sleep deprivation and anxiety.
Jane was now alone and started looking into dog adoption as the grief of losing Rocky lessened. If you tried to rescue a dog during Covid, you’re familiar with that chaos. All the shelters in our area closed and the dogs went quickly to foster homes. People started adopting dogs at an unprecedented rate. Several months of on-line application went by with no success. Then during one trip to see a friend in Maine, Jane checked Uncle Henry’s magazine, an on-line market that has evolved from a farmers’ trading circular. And there it was—an ad for Westie puppies. She called and went the next day to pick up a cute little bug of a pup, only eight weeks old and hopelessly adorable. Jane named her Maisie. The healing had begun.
Summer passed. Jane and I walked Maisie, and Al and I sometimes dog sat when Jane went to Maine to her family house where dogs were not allowed. Lila got older and started to show signs of failing. Finally in September, we resigned ourselves and made the terrible decision to put Lila down. Grief crushed my heart for weeks, to the point of physical pain from the loss of my dear companion.
We played and walked and Sailor grew like a weed. His legs and body lengthened out of proportion with his weight, and for a time he resembled a spider monkey. He was athletic and lanky, and loved to jump and run. He and Maisie adored each other and became best friends.
Summer of 2021 began to bring relief from Covid, and people emerged masked and toting hand sanitizer in every car and purse. The anxiety continued. Vaccinations became available, but difficult to schedule. We tested and masked. Jane and I walked the dogs and Sailor grew taller and lankier. We went out on the boat to escape land and cool off. The boat was the perfect Covid refuge, separated from all other people except for our Covid bubble. Sometime that summer, it came to me how important my relationship with Jane had become. She was the only person I saw every day. “The Walk” became so much a part of our days that it felt odd to go without it.
Winter came on. We continued our daily walk with the dogs, training them for recall and obedience. Good Harbor Beach became a refuge and socialization for the dogs. Spring broke early with warmer temps gracing our Groundhog Day routine.
Then came the fateful day that the young man in our downstairs unit suddenly passed away. We were now neighborless in our two-unit condo. We waited for word on the sale of the condo, asking the family gently if we could have some influence on who might live downstairs. The owners prior to the young man had been nightmares. We needed a good neighbor to share our space.
That is when Jane announced that she needed to move into a house more befitting her life-situation. She had owned an old Gloucester house on Plum Street for 37 years, with steep, scary basement stairs and only a second-floor bathroom. She needed single-floor accommodation.
The family of the young man understood our situation. They had heard stories about our former co-owners. We all met and discussed and it was decided that they would proceed without an agent. They negotiated and Jane listed her house “for sale by owner.” We held our collective breath. The summer came and went with many trips out to the boat and everyday walks with our dogs.
In October, both sales went through without a hitch. Soon we had new downstairs occupants—our dear friends Jane and Maisie.
It is magical the way good things often come from bad circumstances. There is nothing much more important than good neighbors who are also friends. We now live very compatibly—planning, gardening and co-parenting our inseparable dogs. I marvel at the smooth transition we all experienced after several chaotic years of pandemic. We are safe and happy. Sailor and Maisie bounce up and down the stairs to visit each other whenever they please, and we have instant dog-sitters when the need arises.
Covid was horrible. Many people died or became chronically ill. Everyone endured isolation and fear for a very long time. There were almost no positives—but I found one. Covid brought Jane, me and our beloved dogs together. A former familiar face has become a dear, trusted friend. We now share our house in a communal cooperative that is beneficial to all. If Covid hadn’t swept through our world, would all this have happened? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing is certain. This afternoon, Jane, Maisie, Sailor and I will embark on our daily walk, a routine that embraces a deeper meaning.
Life is good.
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