Creature Comforts: CO-VID Cats and Canines

Gracie, a CO-VID canine (Photo by Tim Van Schmidt)

Tim Van Schmidt

Meet Gracie. She’s a CO-VID canine who was not only born during the pandemic but also found a good home.

Gracie is a little Havanese and her proud “mother” is a first-time pet owner at age 70.

It goes like this. Gracie’s Mom has led a very busy and active life. She has a house in Fort Collins and an apartment on the 16th Street Mall in Denver. She has an active extended family, tons of friends, and has maintained a wide-ranging interest in cultural events — from stage shows to concerts to movies to dinner dates.

But the CO-VID pandemic caused a halt to Gracie’s Mom’s lifestyle. As weeks turned into months and even telephone calls became same-old, same-old, Gracie’s Mom came to realize the awful fact — she was lonely.

Without all the usual things to do, Gracie’s Mom needed something new. A close relative back in New Jersey was looking for a new dog and it struck her that maybe, for the first time in her life, the commitment of caring for and raising an animal sounded good.

Gracie’s Mom first checked out the animal shelters in the area but found that lots of other people had the same idea. Her relative had found a dog and, in the process, introduced Gracie’s Mom to several different breeds and dog-owning possibilities. It was a photo of little Gracie as a fledgling pup that melted her heart and started the adoption process.

 

Once in her new home, Gracie, named after Gracie Allen of the famous comedy team Burns and Allen, started to take over. Toys littered the floor, Gracie had her own bed, little steps made the climb to the couch easy and, of course, puppy pads became really important.

Gracie’s Mom has most assuredly found something new to do in her life with this project — she jumps up whenever Gracie even looks at the door to go out, she takes Gracie for walks several times a day, and she coos and soothes the little mite constantly. Gracie doesn’t like riding in the car and there have been a few traumatic trips out to see the vet, but mostly it is going well.  It seems that now, it’s all Gracie’s world and Gracie’s Mom is just living in it.

Gracie plays. Gracie runs around the house. Gracie naps. She eats, piddles, and just generally keeps things very lively. Mission accomplished for Gracie’s Mom.

At our house, the scene is dramatically different, or should I say non-dramatically different? We have a 14-year-old cat whose main activity is sleeping, that is until she gets hungry. Once the food is properly served and her highness has had her snack, it is generally back to sleep mode for her. She’s very chill.

But not all the time. Our cat’s name is Dora, short for Pandora because as a youngster, she couldn’t keep out of any box she could find. She’ll still climb into boxes today when it doesn’t interfere with her napping schedule.

But more, Dora’s main contribution to pandemic living for my wife and I is that she purrs like crazy whenever we hunker down together.

This is in keeping with how I fell in love with this feline. When Dora was much younger, I was shedding some tears over the loss of our beloved black lab and she didn’t go hide, but jumped up on the couch, laid right up against me, and purred for all she was worth. Dora earned her title of “care cat” with that simple gesture and she keeps it up to this day.

Dora’s concern for our well-being has even affected my wife, who said some kind of unspeakable things about cats at a much younger age but who I will often find sharing her space with this purring caregiver.

Dora’s reward is petting and scratching under the chin or behind the ears and it appears like she enjoys it very much. It’s a transactional relationship in many ways, but it truly is more than just that.

Now, an old cat requires some extra work — in a different way than a brand new puppy does — and Dora kind of keeps us jumping too. But in the midst of a pandemic, myself, my wife, and Dora have settled in to take care of each other the best we can.

This will happen to Gracie and Gracie’s Mom too, but they are still in those initial phases where everything is new.

Thanks to our past animals and Dora today, I have come to know that cats and dogs add an element to our lives that just can’t be measured. That is perhaps even more important today than it has ever been.

It is currently most important to Gracie’s Mom, who has found love and happiness thanks to this little dog.

Tim Van Schmidt is a writer and photographer based in Fort Collins. See his video galleries and hear musician interviews on YouTube at “Time Capsules by Tim Van Schmidt.”