Pandemic Pup

“Does this make you feel any sort of way?” I was asked, an inquisitive look flashing across the doctor's face. “Sometimes being diagnosed with something can be,” she paused, debating her next word choices. “Affirming?” I asked her. I looked around the well decorated room trying to formulate my thoughts. The velvet couch that I was sitting on irritated me and almost made me feel like I needed to itch every part of my body. The psychiatrist's many degrees were displayed across the cream walls, held up by matte black picture frames. The room felt stuffy. No book was out of place and no painting was not curated so that it matched perfectly to the room. The perfection strangled me and soothed me at the same time. While sitting there listening to her talk, I had managed to peel off all of my nail polish that I had recently gotten painted, green flakes of paint piling in my hands. I thought being diagnosed with a mental disorder that I had known that I had for many years would be affirming. Instead, it filled me with a sense of dread. Sleepless nights now had a reason. Hands washed over and over again now had an explanation. You would think that would have given me some peace, but instead only one word flashed across my mind, over and over. Crazy. Two long months later, Covid-19 entered the United States. Every night, I sat on the couch with my family, listening to various politicians discuss scientific topics they knew nothing about. Every so often, a case notification would flash across my phone, informing me that someone in my country, state, or city had been recently infected by Covid-19. Buildings were shut down and restaurants started to change their ways to accommodate the new ways of life. Irrational fears once only held by me were now prevalent in the public. People started washing their hands an abnormal amount of times and wore gloves while walking their dogs. In a way, it made me feel less alone. It became hard to come up with new things to do everyday. Like many other people, I tried new workout videos and watched TV that I had never seen before. I deep cleaned every area of my house and read mystery novels in my bed while listening to the rain. I had online classes but they were a joke; none of my teachers had any experience teaching online and it was impossible to focus in the confines of my room. We tried to distract ourselves with board game nights and themed dinners, but it was hard to ignore how the seasons flashed before our eyes and we were still stuck in our houses. Like everyone around me, I slowly started to lose it. It became tiring to do things that were once considered relaxing and all the time left alone with my thoughts allowed anxiety to sneak past my senses. Like many other people around me, I was scared to leave the house for various reasons; I didn't want to infect my father who was a doctor and was needed on the front lines or my mother who was still trying to navigate ways to teach her students from her desk. It became hard to decipher what thoughts were rational and which thoughts were not. Eventually, I became tired of trying to control the ever-present anxiety that had once made me feel so alone. A few months later, my family was in the car driving to Pennsylvania. We had packed the car with all the things we thought we would need; blankets were piled in the back, toys rolled around in the trunk, and excitement filled the car with happiness that we hadn't felt since pre-pandemic. We reached our destination, my brother and I practically falling out of the car running to the door. As I stepped in, outfitted with an N95 mask, I was greeted with wonderful little bundles of fur nipping on my shoelaces. I knelt down as eight little puppies ran around with no control over their own limbs, tripping and falling over each other. Many seconds later, they started to tire and settled down, snuggling with each other while falling asleep. However, one puppy could not handle her excitement and was still climbing all over me, nuzzling her head into my hair while trying to chew on my earring. At that moment I knew that I hadn't come here, to this little house in Pennsylvania, to choose a puppy. The puppy had already chosen me. Flash forward two years later, and my pandemic puppy was one of the best things that ever happened to me. She forced our family to go on walks in the neighborhood and interact with people from afar. She brought happiness to our lives that we didn't know we needed. At the time I didn't know that it was possible for a dog to bring me so much joy. Now I know that by adopting her, we didn't just save her life, we saved mine.

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