I mean, the baby Yoda winter hat was a real winner and I’m pretty unerring with my book picks, but the absolute best thing I’ve gotten my kids during this pandemic, the one thing that has helped to pass time wholesomely and been a bright spot in our lives is —
the dog I adopted in 2009.
It’s a pretty common story: Bonnie was our baby, and then we had a baby, and then she became this thing that lives with us.
Since 2012, my attitude toward Bonnie has fluctuated between apathy and active antipathy, spiking when Scout was a baby and occasionally since we’ve lived in this house, where her border collie wiles periodically liberate her from the fenced backyard and allow her a truly infuriating neighborhood meet-and-greet.
She also, and I cannot overstate this, sheds appallingly.
Pippin, meanwhile, has gradually progressed from a furrowed-brow toddler pronouncing DOG HAIR IN MOUF to exhibiting a growing affection born of too many repetitions of the Henry and Ribsy series on audiobook. But the real turning point was this winter when we made the world-reordering discovery that now, finally, Pip is big enough to just about control her on the leash.
Game changer, friends.
Now the kids are Bonnie’s inseparable and barely tolerated entourage. They stroke her and follow her around the house and lure her upstairs to their bedroom with a purloined bag of treats. They take a very lively interest in her well-being and fight over who feeds her, or lets her out, or, crowning honor above all others, doles out her old-lady joint supplement.
And they want to walk her everyday.
Without the lure of friends to keep the kids playing outside in cold temperatures, it’s been hard this winter to convince the kids to get fresh air and exercise, but they never, ever say no to walking Bonnie, even though she is The Absolute Worst™ on leash, lunging at other dogs and gurgling luridly, then dragging you to an abrupt and poorly placed poop stop. She has pulled out of Pippin’s grasp once so far (bless you, stranger you caught her trailing leash), not counting the other time that he outsmarted her by clipping her to his belt loop, only for Bonnie to then rip the belt loop right off. But she and Pippin dart up and down the hill near our house, the girls trailing behind, and it’s unclear who’s exercising who, but it’s clear who’s saving our afternoon.
I have had this dog for a dozen years, and I have often regretted the expense and responsibility, but during this long, dark winter, I find myself inordinately grateful that she’s still here with us, after all these years and moves and babies. When I spotted her at a Petsmart adoption event, I was 23 and desperate for something small and cute to love me, still scared silly by babies. I couldn’t have imagined the life she and I live now, my three, poor stir-crazy children writing her valentines as we pass another long, pandemic winter day. I count down to vaccines, to warmer temperatures, and I count my lucky stars for this exhausting, enduring stray of ours.