• The Emerald City Social Committee

Share Your Story #1: "Walking my Dog During the Apocalypse"

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

Maybe calling the COVID-19 Pandemic the Apocalypse is going a bit far, but it certainly seems that way to me at times.  Empty shelves at the grocery stores due to people panic shopping, sunny and warm temperatures outside with hardly a soul in sight.  Gas prices have dropped considerably because not too many people are driving anywhere.  It is like someone hung a giant sign on the Earth that says “sorry, we’re closed”.  The city seems empty, sparse and desolate, like a giant train engine pulling a single car on a lonely track.

Despite all of it, life can’t be paused indefinitely.  Take Billy for instance.  He has no idea what is going on.  He’s a dog and the virus doesn’t mean much to him physically.  He still needs to be fed, given water, played with and go for walks.  There is a part of me that truly wishes that I could listen to his thoughts.  When we are outside, things have changed, and I know he is trying to grasp what has happened.  He knows that something is wrong but can’t quite put his paw on it.  

We have a few walk routes in the neighborhood, some are quite longer than others.  We were on one of our shorter routes and Billy got super excited.  One of his dog buddies was across the street with his owner, on a walk of their own.  Billy’s tail was barely visible, it was wagging so fast.  I told him to relax (which is my chill button command for him) and he sat down and went into what I call “observation mode”.  Suddenly he groaned (Billy doesn’t really use his voice much, but he is extremely expressive with grunts, groans and humphs) and was immediately disappointed.  His dog buddy was pulled in the opposite direction which meant that Billy wasn’t going to get a chance to play.  Dogs (especially social ones like Billy) don’t understand social distancing.

It isn’t just other people’s behaviour that has changed.  Billy is a clever dog and he has noticed that I have changed as well.  On one of our outings there was a person approaching us on the sidewalk, talking on the phone when, I overheard part of his conversation.  “What do you mean you tested positive?”  Keep in mind that we were still at a good distance away, but I immediately changed our path to gain an even further distance.  That statement could have meant a plethora of different things but to me, instantly my mind went to COVID-19.  To Billy, the change of root was abrupt and unusual behaviour.

All Billy knows is that no one wants to pet him anymore.  No one wants to let him play with his dog buddies.  He doesn’t get to go to the dog park.  One of the things that I have had to do to make sure that it isn’t too taxing on my dog is that I have changed my walk times.  Originally, we used to go at the highest human traffic times, when everyone else is home from work and walking their dogs.  I now go later in the evening or even late at night.  There are less dogs out during that time and I don’t have to break Billy’s heart as much.  

What I have been doing to elevate this lack of social activity with my dog is simply spending more time with him inside.  I have a new schedule that includes increased indoor play times and just try my best to make sure he is included in what I am doing, even If it is just inviting him to sit with me while I watch Netflix.  The extra bonding has been a positive part in a bad situation and I can only hope that Billy will be back to playing in the park with his dog buddies soon.  

By: Douglas Carney,

Superintendent at Emerald City One

Note: Staff are not eligible for receiving the gift card for sharing a story; Staff stories are on a volunteer basis only.

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