Dogs, Like Humans, Crave Social Contact During Global Pandemic

Week # 3 of Covid 19 in Annapolis, Maryland USA

Chloe our Labradoodle snuggling with my husband Peter at an Annapolis dock.

Chloe, our labradoodle,  thrives on attention.  A scratch behind her ears or under her chin sets her tail in motion. If she meets someone she likes, she’ll lean against them cuddling with her new best friend.

But now, with social distancing and fears of contracting Covid-19, if we see someone—even an old friend with or without a dog—we keep our distance and cross to the other side of the street.  She looks a little depressed to me, unable to interact with new humans and no longer able to sniff and say hello to her four footed friends.  I tried to explain this to the vet during her yearly check-up this past week.

We didn’t talk in person, of course. We talked on the phone, while Chloe was examined inside his office and I waited in the car. Everyone is careful, so even credit card payments are done remotely.

My dog didn’t want to get out of the car when the vet tech arrived to lead her into the office. She didn’t understand why I wasn’t coming with her. I sat alone, reading a book, missing the ritual interaction between my dog, the staff, the vet, and the other dogs she might meet as she checked in and jumped up to be weighed on the scale in the reception room.

I see this craving for social interaction in my husband too, and I have to remind him what six feet looks like by physically pulling out a tape measure. He dutifully steers away from strangers, but when he sees someone he knows that he wants to tell a joke to, he struggles to keep his distance. I think he clearly wants to hear their laugh and see their smile.  Humor is important, so I don’t mind re-listening to some of those old jokes and stories.

Dog walkers
Dog walkers conversing at a distance at a neighborhood park.

Restaurants are closed, except for carry-out, so people have created alternative ways to reproduce the sensation of dining out. Even if dining out means eating out of a Styrofoam container and sitting on one of the vacant benches or tables near City Dock. Boats and cars are mostly gone from the Annapolis City waterfront, but I observed one couple who’d brought their own thermos of coffee and packed a breakfast so they could sit on a concrete ledge at  Ego Alley to admire the harbor view.

Sadly, last Sunday I observed one acquaintance, accustomed to drinking his coffee with cronies in the morning,  attempt to join a pair of friends who were sitting at a table eating their carry-out breakfast.  “Six feet away,” they reminded him. Angrily he stomped off. “I’ll sit somewhere else, like my church,”  he said, evidently forgetting churches are no longer open. Services are being streamed on video.

I too, in my fashion, replicate the sensation of restaurant dining in the safety of my own home. I live where houses are fairly close together and for the first time in my life, the dining room is located in the front of the house.  Easily, by looking out our large windows,  I can watch the progress of the construction project across the street or see a parade of bicycles and children strolling down the sidewalk.  Sometimes if our eyes meet, I wave.  Feeling a part of the neighborhood activities provides visual relief to a day of solitary ruminations. If I want privacy, I can always pull the shades down.

Through the window
Looking at the world through my dining room front window.

As one day slides into another, with no distinguishing difference between weekdays and weekends, I establish routines. I begin the day with hot tea and listen to the news. Methodically I clean a room, juggle money to pay bills  and organize papers before sitting at the computer to start writing.  Lethargy is too easy, so I challenge myself to tackle an essay subject or revise an old short story in addition to continuing the revisions on my novel.

We are only three weeks into what could be a several month siege. Instead of thinking about what lies ahead, I focus on the moment. What can I do better, now?


Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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