• Marie Bateson


We celebrated Earth Day this year by welcoming a puppy into our family. Meet Toby...

He's a Spanish Water Dog and he's only two months old. Which means that despite swearing I was done with being woken by a baby in the middle of the night, I'm once again being woken by a baby in the middle of the night.

Upon seeing pics of him on social media, so many people half-jokingly asked if we had adopted him "just so we could get out for walks". For the past six weeks, people in Spain have only been allowed to leave their houses to go to the supermarket, pharmacy, bank, to take the bins out, or to let their dogs do their business. Dogs were suddenly a hot commodity. But, no, that was NOT the reason. If it were, we would have adopted a dog at the start of the lockdown, not almost six weeks into it. Though it sure would have been nice if he'd been born six weeks earlier...

We adopted Toby because I've wanted a dog for ages but it's never been quite the right time. We need a "hypoallergenic" breed as Daniel has mild allergies and not too many of those pop up on rescue pages. We wanted a puppy because it's my kids first experience with a dog and, damn, puppies are cute. We were going to wait to get one until we'd moved into our new house, but we realised now is as good as it gets in terms of the right time to adopt a puppy.

For starters, we can't go ANYWHERE. All four of us have so much time to devote to loving and playing with this little guy. That's not going to change anytime soon. International travel is basically cancelled for the rest of the year. Here in Spain, there will be no summer camps, no sports games, no visitors. There is more than enough space in our lives right now to make room for a puppy.

Even if he requires that space in the middle of the night... Dogs of this age wake up about every three hours so I'm not getting great sleep. During the day, I basically wander around in a zombie-like state guzzling coffee. But, to be honest, that was kind of my state before Toby arrived because I cannot get my brain around the magnitude of what is happening to our world right now.

I think I'm in a state of shock because the world as we know it has ended. That sounds so melodramatic, but I don't see how things are going to go back to the way they were pre-coronavirus. Restaurants, bars, clubs, travel on a whim, hotel stays - that's all changed forever. I could be wrong - the cynical side of me thinks, "Yeah, right, people are going to forget all about this as soon as there's a vaccine and things will bounce right back to how they were." But I don't really believe that we're all going to be so blasé as to forget this so quickly.

I really hope we'll make improvements to the way we live. On the whole, I don't think losing our previous way of life is necessarily a bad thing. But it's still a loss and I think most of us are grieving, even if we haven't quite realised it. Especially for the myriad little aspects of life that I can't even begin to imagine are gone for good. They are so tiny that I won't even realise they've gone until the first time I miss them. Anticipating the sadness I'll feel in that moment is such a bizarre sensation - I just can't get my head around it.

I find those little unexpected losses to be more mind-boggling than the known losses. For example, these past couple of months were going to be pretty big travel-wise. I was supposed to go on a volunteer trip in Nepal. My family had a huge reunion planned in Mexico. My besties from high school and I were going to have a long weekend away together. I felt unbelievably lucky to have all these awesome trips crammed into a few months, and now they're all gone. I mean, we'll hopefully get to re-schedule but STILL, it's a shame.

But I can manage those losses. And I'm sure I'll manage all the unexpected losses this shitty pandemic will bring over these next months - it's just that they're unknown right now. I think that's what's creating that sense of dread about life post-lockdown - we don't even know all that we've lost.

So, yes, Toby. He's something gained, not lost. A very bright spot in an otherwise fairly bleak time and a wonderful distraction, even if he chews my slippers, wakes me at 2am, and misses the pee pad more often than he hits it.

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