Saturday, April 4, 2020

Prompt #351 – Pets During the Pandemic

If There Is Such a Thing

(After Woman by a Window Feeding Her Dog by Mary Cassatt)

If there is such a thing as forever, I will be here by this high window, this dog beside me, this sun on our faces. Everything important will spread out beneath us: gazebo and fountain. Each will be held in its own moment of beauty like the Yorkshire Terriers whose pictures hang on my kitchen wall: three no longer with me and this one who chews his rope giraffe to pieces with no regrets, no sentimental attachment—the chew worth whatever loss it incurs. Informed by his own spirit, he sees in things only things and wants nothing more than his leash and long walks, a game of throw the ball. He needs nothing more than to sleep on the floor between my feet or curled in the right angle my arm and elbow make when I hold him—the happiness he was made for.

If only forever were a choice we could make, I would choose this dog’s world (and my place in it)—absolute innocence—no other life to plan for but this. Nothing but this: love without reservation—his world and mine as it ought to be and, in this moment, is. 

(From Wind Over Stones, Welcome Rain Publishers, 
Copyright © 2019. All Rights reserved.)

The poem above, from my new book, was published online today. 

It was written for my Yorkie, Chaucer, a couple of years ago. Reading it again, made me think about people and their pets, animals in shelters who need homes during the pandemic, and what people are doing to help them.
During this ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there are international orders to practice strict social distancing and to shelter in place as the best ways to stop the virus from spreading. For those of us who have pets, that means we’re sheltering in place with our dogs, cats, and other finned, furred, and feathered babies. A great comfort for all, especially for families with children and for those who live alone.

On the up side, I recently heard that animal shelters have seen more dogs and cats being fostered and adopted than usual. In fact, I learned a few days ago that Myra, a neighbor and friend, has adopted a handsome little guy they named Otis. Otis joins Myra's family and their much-loved previous rescue, Dorothy.

“People talk about having more time on their hands, wanting a distraction and to do some tangible good,” said Tamela Terry, president of Maryland’s Humane Society of Prince George’s County, located just outside Washington DC, which has seen just such a spike. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), an estimated 6.5 million dogs and cats nationwide enter animal shelters every year. Nearly 1.5 million are euthanized. Foster programs run by the ASPCA in New York City and Los Angeles have now experienced a nearly 70% increase in animals being fostered, according to the Daily Beast.

It’s not all good news for animals, though. It’s been reported, “although the Humane Society of the US called on states to declare shelters essential services, many rescues have had to shut down. Social distancing protocols, including bans on public gatherings where adoption campaigns are often held, have forced others to limit public access. In recent weeks, many have also made online appeals for help in taking care of animals because their owners have fallen sick.”

I know a recent prompt here on the blog dealt with animals, but I thought this might be a good time to revisit the idea and to write about pets specifically in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you don’t have a pet, maybe you can write more generally about the current situation and what it means for pets in shelters. These are stressful times for all of us—for many animals as well.

Stay safe and well, dear readers!
Practice social distancing and stay home if you can!

And, please,
if you’re in a position to bring a shelter pet into your heart and home,
this is a good time to consider it!

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