Sunday, April 19, 2020

Buster is the Weakest Link

We’ve been trapped at home on coronavirus lockdown for four weeks now. Each of the Leishmans of Bellingham has made an individualized list of what we miss most. Here’s my top three:

1.     Vancouver Men’s Chorus
2.     Public schools
3.     Canada

“Public schools” also appeared on each of my parents’ miss lists, competing with bridge, golf, TV sports, church, and the public library. (For me the library closure is stuck on the bubble). The school closure would also appear on my nephew’s list if he were still in town, but instead he’s quarantined with the rest of his family across the continent. 

One of my children – the impatient extrovert who longs for softball practice and theater rehearsals – also misses school. Eleanor copes by awakening each dawn for a grueling daylong regimen of vigorous exercise, alternated with TikTok and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy for the umpteenth time. 

My other two children are still in bed, regardless of the time of day. Their miss lists barely included “Seeing my friends at school.” Similarly, closed schools only made one of the dog’s lists. The coronavirus pandemic is making Buster miserable.

In contrast, Bear is loving it.

Our dog’s life is better than ever. He’s the lord of a large enclosed backyard, or he can wander throughout the house. Papa has abandoned the pretense of being either allergic or hygienic, and stopped shoo-ing the dogs off his bed. Bear is probably napping on the bed right now, dreaming of our next walk. As the alpha of our small pack, Bear gets first pick of all the good stuff, including Papa’s affection.

Sadly, Papa is not loving it. You probably thought someone who already works from home and who adores his children would be perfectly suited to “sheltering in place” with his family. You were wrong. It’s not just #1 and #3 on my list (plus the public library closure and zero social life). It’s also that big #2. I miss the kids being gone from 8:30 am until 3:30 pm five days a week. After adapting to single parenthood during the fall, this winter the kids, dogs and I finally settled into a lovely routine. Now it’s ruined. 

Like my children, I’ve compensated with extra sleep and exercise. For example, on Friday I walked thirteen miles:  three miles with Bear and Buster, four miles with Bear, two miles with Bear and the kids, and four miles alone. 

Buster is hating life.

Both dogs came from the same Aussiedoodle breeder, but Bear is more poodle than Australian shepherd. He hasn’t had a haircut since last summer. No one has seen Buster's eyes for months. I can barely squeeze a collar and harness over his poofy ears. With the arrival of spring, Buster regularly overheats on our walks.

The second photo is Buster. The first photo was posted from quarantine last week by my BYU friend Matthew. The resemblance is uncanny. Particularly their coloring (although I hope Matt’s chest hair hasn’t gotten as white as Buster’s).

All along the west coast, hairdressers and dog groomers failed to make the cut for “essential” businesses. Their closure made Matthew’s miss list, narrowly edging out “Church” and “Trips to the Faroe Islands.” For Buster, “No haircut” is #1.

Last week I gave up inviting Buster on serious walks. 

Before I’m accused of poodle-shaming, let me tell you about our family walk on Thursday evening. Neither of my introverted children made it outside by the dinnertime deadline. So they received mandatory invitations to join the dogs and me on what we refer to as our “short” evening walk around the hilltop.

My children only made it a third of the way before they abandoned us, announcing the route wasn’t short enough. Buster made it another block. Then he keeled over on some professor’s manicured lawn. 

Buster failed to respond to my comfort. I tried dragging him a couple of times, but he was dead weight. I couldn’t just leave Buster lying there on the grass, like I would with one of the children. I thought about texting Eleanor and asking her to come watch Buster while Bear and I walked back to get the car. However, my daughters direction sense is so terrible she’d just get lost.

As I stood in the sunshine pondering my dilemma, I saw a rabbit out of the corner of my eye. So did the dogs. They raced after the rabbit, yanking the leash out of my hand. Including Buster – the lazy malingering soccer player of the litter.

On our long Buster-free walk yesterday afternoon, Bear and I encountered a couple of little old ladies down the hill. One of the women asked about Bear’s breed. I explained I had a couple of shaggy Aussiedoodles, but the other one was staying cool at home. She said she has fourteen-year-old Labradoodle. Nowadays she has to carry him everywhere.

From their safe social distance across the street, the women couldn’t hear me mutter “Buster is only three years old, and already I have to carry him.” But Bear heard me.

The arrival of a gorgeous spring has made quarantine bearable. This week Bear and I went on several long excursions that were potential candidates for Second Best Walk Ever. However, any Best Walk Ever will include Buster, too. And the children. Unfortunately, like a lot of good things these days, it’s not likely to happen for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, it’s nice to finally be #1 on someone’s list.

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