In case you haven’t guessed yet, in our strange new world, ‘iso’ simply means ‘isolation!’ For us, in isolation at home, how do we entertain our (now) big, boisterous and lovable adolescent chocolate Lab x Pointer dog who is so sociable that he wants to get out, greet, play with and lick to bits every human and dog we meet? Being the canny boy he is, he knows that we are now at home all the time (apart from me very occasionally dashing to the local shops for food and my husband’s medications) and boy, he is playing on that knowledge like you would not believe!
From the moment he has been let out of the laundry where he sleeps, he wolfs down breakfast and tries to hide behind the couch ahead of being put outside. But before we know it, he is whining then yipping at the laundry door to be with us. To try and tire him out, he now gets three walks per day in the park behind us as well as around our (now) very quiet neighbourhood streets. My husband and I do one walk each with Boomer and one together. Great exercise everyone tells us, and yes it all helps to keep our weight down. Thing is, when we collapse with exhaustion upon getting home, Boomer is ready for ‘Round 2’; a routine that includes innumerable rounds of tennis ball soccer, fetching and chewing the tennis ball, all while playing keepings off with his rubber chicken. Thank goodness that chicken’s interminable squeak has ‘died’ at last! And all of this happens around our family room.
Added to the walks, is my husband’s investment of time into Boomer’s further training with recall routines, and general behaviour built upon instructions such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘drop’, ‘wait’, ‘come’, ‘fetch’, ‘leave’ (the ball) plus all the fun things like ‘shake (right) paw, ‘leftie’ (left paw), wave (paws) and ‘high 5’ (paws). All of these for small doggie treats of course! Oh, and the one that is most challenging at present is ‘outside!’
As our days at home stretch into weeks and soon that will be months, we are realizing that our daily routine is being redefined and prompted by Boomer – right down to the necessity of the family room floor needing to be dry-mopped every day. Other wise we will choke on the clouds of doggy hair so generously left behind by our lovable fur boy. I love how a friend, and fellow owner of a Pointer describes her fur boy’s gift of hair as ‘randomly distributing Pointer glitter!’
And so I find myself being more than a little thankful of God’s timing in the somewhat unexpected acquisition of our puppy just over a year ago. For, despite having eased our way into retirement and happily maintaining our interests from home, it could have become very easy for us to become lazy about this new norm. Such as not getting going terribly early in the morning and missing some of the best parts of the day. And I suspect we would not get the exercise from walking we are getting now, courtesy of Boomer. The gift of this dog will effectively help see us through this time of isolation.
Now I know that not everyone has a dog, is able or desires to have a dog. So before you write me off as being too canine-centric to be helpful, let me just suggest that in these times, we need to redefine our purpose for living. And by that, I am suggesting refocusing ourselves to get through each day while in isolation. You see, for a people-serving person and pastor like myself, I will admit that I am missing people terribly. Starting with our family and friends, I find myself stressing over the welfare of people everywhere. And while I am praying to God for the well being and safety of humanity everywhere, I feel stressed that I can’t keep up with prayers for all. For two reasons. One is (and this was reinforced in the immediate aftermath of the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009), that in isolation we are not immune from human traumas still happening and I am particularly saddened by the fact I cannot visit and comfort people as these things occur.
The other reason is the knowledge that in countries less developed than ours, the terrible inequality and chronic under resourcing of hospitals and medical clinics means that many people will die from lack of basic access to food and medical aid, regardless of the march of COVID-19. One instance that makes me cry even more has occurred in Uganda, where in all good will and with best intentions, the President has ordered a total lockdown of the Ugandan population for at least 4 weeks. With strict transport curfews in place , an Australian friend working there reported the death of a woman on the roadside who had been trying to seek help for giving birth. Unable to get any further, she died alone on that roadside from blood loss as she tried unsuccessfully to deliver her baby.
I know things are very bad in Italy, Spain, New York, California and other places and all of these need our prayers, as events there continue to fill our TV screens every evening. But I am asking us to please pray for Africa, as tragedies such as that of the unknown lady bleeding to death on a roadside will never be documented, let alone become newsworthy in the western world.
Trivial as it may seem, this is why I need and give thanks for Boomer, both to order my day and allow him to help, even in the smallest way, lift my spirit towards God as I ask Him to intervene in this troubled world in even more troubled times.
So, stay safe, stay well and stay home everyone please, no matter how hard this is for the sake of all. And whether you have a dog or not, be richly blessed in ‘iso.’
Glynis Dickins is an (almost!) retired minister who has pastured in several Baptist churches across the northern suburbs of Melbourne. She is passionate about family, people, writing and the many ways dogs can bring joy and laughter into our lives.