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My husband is a big Boxer person, and I prefer scrawny mutts. But earlier this week, we brought home a four-pound, seven-week-old, black mini-Schnauzer. Her name is Mango. She is perfect.
We’d been chewing on the idea for a while: We made spreadsheets and lists. We talked to friends and family, neighbors and strangers. We were worried: housebreaking, crate training, multiple walks a day. We barely keep ourselves bathed and our single child fed. We were not feeling confident that we could fold another creature into the mix.
Plus, things were opening up. I bought my first plane ticket. My kid was released from Zoom school, and spent two weeks at summer camp. We saw family we hadn’t seen in a year. We went to a movie. Inside a theater! I didn’t want a dog to fence me in, to tie me to home. I wanted to be free.
There had also been plenty of buzz about people madly adopting pets at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, and then returning their pets. So, truth be told, I was holding on to that as an option.
But it turns out that people are not returning their pets in droves. “We don’t have any evidence to show that shelters are seeing an increase,” a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association told The New York Times.
Then, she arrived. And the things we were so worried about -- Could we do this? -- lifted right away. She rolled in and became part of the family.
Of course there’s work to be done: My kid, the one who is supposed to be embracing her role as a proud “big sister,” declared on day two that she is scared of the dog. (The nipping is annoying.) We’ve rearranged our tiny kitchen to be a big playpen, and we’re back to waking up before dawn to deal with feeding and pottying.
As Mango has settled in, I’m aware that things have gotten harder again outside the walls of our home.
The infection rates are rising. Vaccination hesitancy is strong. Mask mandates are coming back around. There’s uncertainty about school reopening. The layers of protection we need -- the vaccine, the masks, the distance -- all of that is still in place.
We’re not going anywhere yet. We keep leaning into our communities, and building them where we can. Widen the circle, hold each other close. Community is another layer of protection, and this dog is a part of that.
This evening we found a bag of dog treats hanging on our doorknob, a gift from a neighbor.
Earlier, a neighbor rushed up to me while I was out with the pup. “Everyone is talking about you!” he told Mango. “The cutest new dog in the neighborhood!”