Pet Love in the Time of COVID

Last week, my cat had to have surgery. She’s an older cat and the only cat I have ever had. I have cat allergies, but when I met Sophie at the Bangor Humane Society one Friday night, I decided I really couldn’t live without her. I had to test my allergies to her first though. I petted her, rubbed my face, and went home to see what the reaction would be. There was some reaction, but it wasn’t too bad. I could certainly handle some itchy eyes and sneezing in order to have my very first cat. The power of love, I suppose.

The Humane Society wouldn’t be open again until Monday, so even though my allergy test was necessary, I worried all weekend that someone else would adopt my cat before I could get there. No one did. Sophie came home with me.

Sophie had a hard-luck story. She had been found on the streets of Bangor, Maine in January, with little fur and near death. When I met her, she still didn’t have all of her fur grown in, but she was already the most beautiful cat I had ever seen. Sophie has gorgeous green eyes and the cutest pink nose in the history of the world.

Of course, after such a rough go in life, it would be a long time before Sophie would trust me. Interestingly, having never had a cat, I was unsure about her as well. I never knew when I might do the wrong thing and get a warning bite. Her teeth were scary to me, as was her unpredictability. I was a long way from dog country–a country I had lived in all of my life.

I did learn pretty quickly to never pet the belly, though she would stretch and display the belly as if she surely wanted me to pet it.

But I will never forget the first night we touched noses, and I put my nose next to that perfect pink nose as she leaned into to my face. We were best friends after that. She was my cat, and I was her human. It was like we were announcing to each other that we trusted each other, and it was as if we knew we were put on this Earth for each other.

That powerful night occurred after having her for three years;  it was over five years ago now. During this time, I have fallen deeply in love with the magnificence that is a cat.

Unfortunately, as Sophie has aged, health problems have emerged—thyroid and kidney issues. I thought we were going to lose her in May, but she pulled through. Our vet seems amazed at Sophie’s strength, but he doesn’t know her back story. Sophie is tough.

I was still very nervous about her surgery last week to remove part of her thyroid. Thankfully, our vet called after the surgery and said Sophie had made it through but that she would need to stay until 5:00 PM for more tests in the afternoon.

It’s December in Maine, so it gets dark very early. When I arrived at the vet’s office to pick her up, it was completely dark and had been raining pretty steadily, but I could see the parking lot was packed with people waiting in their cars.

I was arriving when everyone else was arriving to pick up their pets after a day of surgery. I managed to find a parking spot. I called into the office, as there are no in-person visits right now due to COVID, and then I waited.

And it was while I was waiting in the parking lot that night that I witnessed the most beautiful thing in the world—love.

One by one, I could see veterinarians or vet techs bring dogs outside on leashes or small dogs or cats outside in crates and then start searching for the right cars, the right owners. And, one by one, I saw people jumping out of their cars with arms spread wide open, clearly so joyous to see their animals. And the best part was watching the animals.

The ones I could see, the dogs on their leads, were just as joyous—even more so. With ears down, tails wagging, bodies wiggling, I could see they were saying, “oh thank goodness you’re back” or “I’ve missed you so,” or “I’m so glad I get to go home” or maybe even “there, there’s my human.” It was so beautiful, so beautiful to see this much love between humans and animals.

I thought about the tough times we have all had due to COVID. While I have known people who have died from COVID, it has not touched my family directly. Still, we self isolate, and the isolation is wearing. I thought about how close I have become to my animals during all of this. My dogs (we share our home with two Great Pyrenees) have become more than my family; they are my only friends I get to see.

My Sophie has also become even more dear to me. She wakes me up each morning at the same time, and I feed her and say hello before heading out to care for the chickens and ducks. And since I rarely leave the house, Sophie is near me almost all day every day of my life.

I realized that this must be the case for so many people. And, for so many animals who love their humans to the moon and back, COVID has been a blessing for them. Their humans stay home.

I wonder how universal this powerful and growing bond really is. I felt like I could see it last Tuesday night sitting outside the vet’s office. I am sure this must be common, and I hope, even when we have a vaccine and can return to more “normal” lives, that we will always have this extra special bond with our animals. After all, they will have been through a pandemic with us.

Sophie was the last one out of the office. After a bit, I did start to worry some, but, finally, I saw the vet and vet tech come out of the front door with Sophie’s crate. And I, like the other humans before me, jumped out of my car in my joy and started calling her name as she came closer.

She was definitely a little worse for wear, but my kitty was going to come home with me and be with me a little longer. And Sophie’s drunken purr told me she was happy to see me too. My amazing vet had given me the greatest gift—more time with my kitty.

Because she is my cat, and I am her human.

Outside my vet’s office there is a sign someone made and left anonymously at the front office door at the start of this pandemic. The sign reads “Heroes work here.”

As I watched all that love pouring out in those reunions that night during surgery pick up, I thought to myself, “they most certainly do.”

3 thoughts on “Pet Love in the Time of COVID

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