Relief from stress is never far away when aided by the recent rise of pandemic puppies and other pets. A few chewed shoes or slippers, a few accidents on the new carpet become nothing as these puppies become part of the family.
Until a few years ago, Napoleon, a shaggy, sandy little ball of fluff, was the only dog on the block. True to his name, he ruled his small cul-de-sac, roaming from house to house, yard to yard, smelling the flowers and the scents left behind by other dogs, and occasionally, skunks or raccoons. But one day, his parents decided that he needed a sibling, and Roxie, a purebred, AKA-registered Scottish Terrier, joined the party. The two of them became a happy team of siblings.
Then along came Lilah, an adorable Miniature Schnauzer. Lilah is a gentle dog, puppyish and eager, but never yippy like the Schnauzers I grew up with. Deborah, a nearby neighbor, walks by with Cassidy, a lovely retriever, becoming part of this circle of friends. And then, new neighbors moved in, and we now have Basket, who lives across the street, and Biscuit, further down the block.
Relatives who live several towns south of San Francisco recently brought home a new puppy, Buddy, inspiring me to invite myself down for a masked, socially distanced back yard meet and greet. Buddy is a black and white, mixed Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He could not possibly be cuter or more energetic.
It is hard to say which of these dogs is my favorite. Maybe it is sweet Lilah. Or perhaps, Napoleon. Cassidy ranks up very high, despite my predisposition to small, fluffy dogs. One recent day, four of these dogs, appropriately on leash, gathered with their guardians for a visit in our driveway.
On my weekly walks around the city, I have encountered big dogs and small – from pugs and chihuahuas to poodles, Bernese mountain dogs, and many others. San Franciscans love their dogs. There are in fact more dogs in San Francisco than children.
Much as I love dogs, I am at heart a cat person. We have two ten-year old cats, Autumn and Percy, to keep us company. As pandemic puppies and other pets are in high demand right now, dogs are, as Deborah has pointed out, a lot of work.
Autumn and Percy are, respectively, a calico Persian and a Himalayan. Although they were born just days apart, they are not birth siblings. At 10-weeks old, they came to us from Seattle via Alaska Airlines. In their first night in our house, Autumn managed to climb out of the basket I had put them in and claw her way up into bed with us. She has been a constant companion ever since.
Percy is more independent, but when he wants attention, he demands it on his own terms. He is the cat that sits on the keyboard when you are typing, lies across the newspaper you are reading, and once he unrolled the toilet paper. No sleeping late for the humans if it is his breakfast time. Racing through the house, he upends throw rugs and leaves great clouds of white fluff bunnies in his wake. He likes to sleep in my office chair, or stretched out in the sun on top of my freshly laundered sweaters.
Each of the male cats we have raised has had a nemesis. How do these cats find one another? Our first cat, Farley, was an orange marmalade tabby. His enemy could easily have been his twin, so identical were they in looks and likely age. Farley’s rival was so bold that he would sneak into our house, eat Farley’s food, and mark the territory. He raged outside when we barred his access, banging his head against the garage door and howling in the night. Boris, a black tabby, was our next cat. And sure enough, another black cat started hanging out in front of our house, eager for a fight.
Our beloved and beautiful Annapurrna was a very special cat. She had classic Himalayan features, and appeared to have been trained for show. It is hard to believe that she was picked up as a stray near Sacramento and never claimed. Her instincts were so finely tuned, I felt sure that she always knew what I was thinking. Her presence is still both felt and missed in our house.
Percy had his own nemesis, Leo, a light-colored tabby. Leo was another gentle soul, but only with humans. All other outdoor cats were his sworn enemies. His only goal was to make every house in the neighborhood his own, slipping through gates and open doors with impunity, staring through windows, scratching at doors. He owned us all and belonged to none. Outdoor cats are few and far between these days, and Leo was a survivor until recently, felled by a passing car. The neighborhood mourned at his passing.
Pandemic puppies and other pets may not be right for everyone, but for those who want them, they bring joy and good company. I cannot imagine living without them.
American Kennel Club. Miniature Schnauzer
American Kennel Club. Scottish Terrier
Are There Really More Dogs Than Children in San Francisco? KQED, May 24, 2018
Himalayan Cat Breed. Petfinder.
I Got a Pandemic Puppy, and You Can Too! by Gillian B. White. The Atlantic, April 11, 2020
The Problem with Pandemic Puppies by Riley Black. Slate, Sept. 24, 2020
So Many Pets Have Been Adopted During the Pandemic that Shelters Are Running Out by Dana Hedgpeth. The Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2020