Published In The Great North Arrow, May 2022: Myra's Pleasant Pandemic

- jim Young

“Change is inevitable. and the disruption it causes often brings both inconvenience and opportunity.” - Bob Scoble

Our retired life has become pretty routine, especially this past winter. I get up between 6:00 am and 7:00 am, put Myra out for her morning run - or not. Sometimes she's just not ready to go out, particularly during sub zero temperatures and I can't fault her for that.

Next I stoke the fire to get it going and add some wood followed by making a pot of coffee. Some mornings I will put some bacon on low, not so much for breakfast as we aren’t regular breakfast people, but just so the aroma of the coffee and bacon will be a pleasant awakening for My Shirley. If Myra has been out, I will let her in. She will run to either My Shirley’s or my chair in the sunroom to curl up in front of the fire. And if she hadn’t already been out, she’s probably ready to be let out now.

I sit down to my computer to write, pay bills, see what’s happening on FaceBook and/or answer emails, often to my cousin Steve in B.C. who has written to teasingly remind me how mild the winters are on Vancouver Island as he noted our temps dropped to -40° last night.

Myra knows where I am and sometimes comes to visit me either just to say “hello” and get petted or to let me know she wants out again.

When My Shirley arises she starts the music on our stereo which will play on the speakers positioned throughout the house. Myra patiently follows her from room to room while My Shirley turns on each speaker, until they reach the kitchen where Myra knows a treat will be bestowed upon her.

Around noon we will decide what needs to be done, or what we perceive needs to be done that day, which isn’t always the same thing and we will set out to do them. If it’s Saturday or Wednesday that might involve a trip to the Legion to return our empties and a trip to the dump. And since we’re out anyway, we’ll likely drive to Polly’s for some lottery tickets. These stops are often as much of a social outing as they are chores. Myra enjoys them as she gets to ride along in the backseat with her nose up to the cracked window attempting to identify every new smell we pass by. 

When our chores are done we like to sit by the fire. My Shirley will check her lottery tickets while I read the latest edition of the Great North Arrow or a few chapters from Jenny Cressman's Cuban Trilogy, "Cuban Kisses", "Cuban Wishes" and the not yet released "Cuban Misses".

We like to remember the many years we were in the workforce by celebrating the first cocktail of the day around what would have been “quitting time”. Whichever of us has chosen to make supper that evening will begin that task, but once that’s done we’re likely to jump in the hot tub for some relaxing hydrotherapy before dinner. Myra is just as excited to join us outside by her spot on the deck closeby.

When supper is ready, we take our places, not at the dining room table, which is reserved for guests and special occasions, but in front of the TV to binge watch a favourite series on DVD. We’re currently watching the series Dallas again and enjoying it as much as we did in the 70s.

Without being reminded, Myra respectfully lies stretched out on the floor between the living room and the kitchen until dinner is finished. She usually lies right in the path, requiring us to step over her if we need to go back to the kitchen for more salt or a drink of water. But we appreciate her patient willingness to let us enjoy our dinner in peace so we make the extra effort without comment except for an occasional, sarcastic “That’s okay Myra, don’t move.” Myra’s eyes will follow us, but that is the only part of her body that makes a movement.

Once dinner is over however, My Shirley will prepare dinner for Myra and pour a glass of wine for us to enjoy during the remainder of our show. When Myra has finished her supper, she knows that she is now welcome, not just in the living room, but on the couch between us. She snuggles in and gently begins nudging first My Shirley and then me to remind us she is there and expecting to be petted by BOTH of us.

At some point, having finished our wine, My Shirley will inevitably ask “Could you get us a beer?” Myra knows the beer is in the fridge in the ClubHouse at the far end of the house, by the door that she is most often let out. Before the words are out of My Shirley’s mouth, Myra has vaulted over the coffee table to make a mad dash down the long, narrow hallway where she awaits my tardy arrival. If I am moving too slowly for Myra’s liking, she will come back to greet me, as if to say “What’s taking so long?” Myra is very anxious to get outside to run around her spacious pen, playing with her rubber chicken. 

At the end of the evening, My Shirley pours us a glass of wine before bedtime and we regroup again in the sun room by the fire for some quiet time. Myra would like to be a lap dog and attempts to crawl up as far as she can on my lap to be petted. This is often as uncomfortable for her as it is for me, but we both endure until she decides to lie down by the side of My Shirley’s chair to be petted there awhile.

Sometimes Myra will be the first to head to bed and sometimes it will be me with Myra close at my heels. She will lie curled up beside me until My Shirley joins us about an hour later. My Shirley will struggle a bit to find a spot for her in the bed but we usually end up with Myra between us. Then, just before My Shirley nods off to sleep, Myra will decide one of our two chairs in the sunroom is likely a more comfortable spot for her.

Life is Good.

Recently however, that all changed. Our daughter and son-in-law arrived with two of our grandchildren from Alberta for a visit and as you might expect, our daily routine changed drastically. Visitors are not unheard of in Myra’s experience, but the duration of their visits usually only last from a few minutes to a couple of hours. The living room in our one bedroom home became a second bedroom. ALL meals were now being served in the previously unused dining room. Myra never knew where she might find us at any given time of the day. 

Most of these changes were welcomed by Myra. Petting and cuddles seemed more readily available from the children and treats were more frequent. But the worst part was we would all periodically disappear for periods of time in the car that was now not big enough to accommodate Myra as we have extra passengers.

While we were very much aware this disruption was a short term arrangement that would only last a week, we were unable to communicate this to Myra. It occurred to me that Myra had no way of knowing this was not to become her “new normal”. For all Myra knew, in spite of the pleasantry of it all, this was Myra’s Pandemic. Not in the sense of the disease of course, but in how it changed her world.

It is not my intent to diminish the seriousness of the recent pandemic or trivialise the pain and suffering of those who were ill and lost loved ones. I realise that many were hurt financially and suffered other losses too. But for those of us that were not directly affected by the pandemic in that manner, for the most part, the pandemic’s biggest impact has been a change in our lifestyle that we were not expecting.

We all anticipated that it would one day be over and each day we could speculate when that day would come. And even though we struggled with it, we had some control in it as we chose to conform to or resist against suggested and mandated protocols.

Myra however, like all pets and wildlife, has no concept of what a change in her lifestyle means or how long it will last, regardless of  whether that change is for good or bad. It just is. Animals just roll with the punches and accept every day as it is dealt to them.  

Or do they?

When my daughter and her family left and things returned to “normal” in our household, Myra spent the better part of the first day lying in the comfort of her dog house choosing solitude. Just as she had begun to acclimatise to her “new normal” it was gone just as quickly as it arrived. Perhaps Myra needed some alone time to contemplate what it was all about. But at the end of the day, Myra returned to our bed to snuggle between us. 

Life really IS Good.

- 30 -


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