For all the tales of scientists and snowbirds, frontliners and queue-jumpers, deliverers and delinquents, every stay-at-homer knows, deep down, who the main character is in their pandemic story.
No, you have abjectly not been the lead in your own quarantine show. Your partner? Your roommate? Your kids? Your loud neighbours? Your new-found, Zoom-background-enhancing plant friends? These are but supporting actors.
We all know who the real star is: your pet.
For your dog, these are the glory days. If there used to be other sorts of days, when you left the house for ungodly hours at a time, when she could not rest her chin on your knee at any moment, she has wiped them from her short memory.
The rare occasions when her human “goes on an errand” or “attends an outdoor gathering” raise serious alarm bells. Obviously, your prolonged departure—more than five whole minutes now—indicates you have passed away from this world, never to return. Let the grieving process begin, one baleful howl at a time.
All is forgiven upon your return, because never has a pup experienced such a wealth of attention. Excuse me, you can play in the middle of the day? Wait, you’re free for another walk? Can I have another treat? Can I? Can I? Never has a pooch ever experienced such bliss.
Now that you share a prison, your cat has seized every opportunity to bend you to his will or, as he sees it, enforce the correct way of things. Daily activities such as “working remotely,” “being on the phone” or “doing exercise” cannot compete with his affections. (It turns out the space beneath a downward dog is particularly comfortable.) No, you are not authorized to remove him from any of his favourite spots. As a fully fledged member of the household, he will be taking up an entire couch cushion, thanks. A “cat bed”? How dare you. But also, how dare you remove it; it is pretty cozy.
Your feline must approve any departures from the room, so that he may accompany and monitor you. You may without notice be summoned to open the outside door, so that he may position himself on the threshold, two feet inside, two feet outside, and contemplate life. Yes, it is imperative that your warm lap and warm keyboard remain available for sitting at any time. Yes, he will keep trying to eat the plant—even after you unforgivably moved it to higher ground. And, oh yes, he has been practising his vocal skills in the quiet of night. So nice of you to notice.
You may have joined thousands of your fellow citizens in adopting a furry companion during the pandemic, to stave off loneliness and add joy to your day-to-day. Or maybe your critter was already a long-standing member of the family. Either way, one thing’s for sure: during a time of so much monotony, stir-craziness, grief and boredom, they couldn’t be happier to have you wrapped around their little paw.
This profile appeared in the April 2021 issue of Maclean’s, where we gave our magazine over to a 22,000-word special report, “Year One: The untold story of the pandemic in Canada.” Read that whole story, and learn why we did it.