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What I Learned from My Dogs During the Pandemic

Mental Health
Author name: By Paul Simeone, VP Medical Director Behavioral and Mental Health      

The power of pets in a pandemic graphic

We have two dogs — Westies to be precise — and they have taught me a whole series of invaluable lessons that one only learns via what I call, “interspecies cohabitation,” especially during periods of prolonged extremis.

To fully appreciate the gift of their teachings, you have to meet “the lads.”

Cody is our elder statesman, soon to be knocking on the door to 14, a proper Scottish gentleman who possesses a regal, dignified and reserved temperament.

Unobtrusive, stoical and infinitely loyal, he teaches patience, compassion and great self-care.

From him, I learned the value of sleep, exercise and good food, as he manages to combine all of these into a laudable but humble lifestyle. The man knows how to live a stress-less and centered life, and he graciously shares his perspective with all who cross his long path.

Cooper, our resident lunatic, now almost 4, a brother from another mother, is welded at the hip to Cody. An avid TV watcher with a penchant for Star Trek (The Next Generation), Formula One, and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, he’s up for the party, any party, at any time, in any place. Hunter Thompson had nothing on him.

He loves life, has a reverence for the gathering, and he shares his enthusiasm with all who come his way. Gonzo, to be sure!

Like Cody, he lives to be connected; to him, if we aren’t accompanied on life’s journey, then what the heck?!? What’s it all about? And did I mention that he loves music? Jazz, rock, country, classical or the blues, it matters not to him. He’s a man who knows all of Dylan’s songs and still laments his electric period. He’s a crazy guy, doing crazy things in a very, very, crazy world.

Together, “the boys” (this is our American version of “the lads”) saved our lives during COVID-19.

They kept us company, cheered us up when we were low, took us out for walks when we didn’t want to get off the couch, covered as we were in Cheetos dust, waiting for another Netflix series.

Many people often ask me why I tie myself down with not one, but two dogs, especially when my wife and I are empty nesters who have the freedom to do and go anywhere we want.

It’s simple, really.

Pets, irrespective of what and who they are, keep us grounded to what matters most in life. This is so easily lost, particularly during hard times. They are the perfect answer to what ails us in the postmodern world.

That is their enduring blessing, given generously, unconditionally, and always without rancor or judgement. Does it get any better than that? Don’t think so.