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Randi Kreiss

Dog days of the 2020 pandemic election

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As we go to press, Major and Champ are heading to the White House. Apparently, Joe and Jill Biden will be moving in, too, on Inauguration Day, but the big news is that dogs are back in the people’s house. This dog whistle is sweet: the presence of the Bidens’ two German shepherds speaks to the humanity of their owners.

Also at press time, the current occupant of the White House has not yet conceded the election and is launching lawsuits like North Korean missiles. They seem just as likely to plummet into oblivion.

This traumatic election of 2020 unfolds in the midst of a catastrophic pandemic, with more than 100,000 people a day getting infected with Covid-19. The entire election experience, not to mention the past four years, has been an unraveling of norms.

The pollsters suggesting a big “blue wave” couldn’t have been more wrong. Basically they were telling us the earth was flat and we nearly sailed over the edge. There was no such wave. It seems as if every person who voted for President Trump last time voted for him again. His supporters are still believers, which speaks to our great national divide.

The voting went smoothly, but the counting has been excruciatingly slow. At press time, Joe Biden is the president-elect, but there are recounts ahead for Senate seats. We will have a new government in a couple of months. Probably.

In this time of uncertainty, what can we know and count on for sure, no matter what? What is your life preserver? With my kids far away, my grandkids disembodied voices on the phone and friends scattered to their personal pods, my lifesaver has been my dog, Lillybee. I know she is my husband’s comfort as well. That is not to take away from us as a couple, but Lillybee is another category of loving companion.

As it turns out, dogs can save us from ourselves, from the pain of isolation and the tension of being inside and outside bubbles. I’m sure you know as many people as I do who’ve become first-time dog owners since the onset of the pandemic.

According to what I’ve read, the demand for dogs far exceeds the supply. Animal shelters, private breeders and pet stores are reporting unprecedented demand. People are hiring people to fly new puppies to them. Some shelters are reporting dozens of applications for individual dogs. Some breeders are reporting waiting lists well into 2021.

Dogs fill the void created by lost jobs and lost school days and lost opportunities to socialize. As people realize the pandemic won’t be over anytime soon, they’re changing travel and spending habits. They’re longing for emotional connection, and that’s where dogs do what they have always done: give special meaning to life. All the clichés of unconditional love and friendship are true.

Of course, shelter directors are hoping that people remain as faithful to their dogs as the dogs are to them. When the pandemic ends and political life calms down and people go back to school and work, dogs will still need their people for food and companionship and love.

Dogs are pretty happy these days. It’s a great life. Everyone is home! There’s always someone to play with. There will be a big adjustment for dogs and humans alike when pandemic restrictions are lifted.

I’ve noticed that Lillybee is increasingly attached, following us from room to room, and also more anxious, picking up on our vibes. I took her to the puppy park yesterday and, like a toddler in preschool, she sat behind my legs and wouldn’t play with the other kids. When we get our mojo back, I expect she will, too.

It’s a sign of our national health and well-being that Major and Champ will be moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. On a personal note, I’m relieved that they’ll be bringing Joe and Jill.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, author of the collection “Dog Songs,” wrote this tribute:

Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?

Copyright 2020 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.