COVID Companion

It’s been eighteen years since my
last dog died and I
really had no plans to get another.
Retired, empty-nested, single—
why topple a carefree life?

Then comes March and the
shadow of COVID-19 closes in—
a time when life becomes a surreal 
spectacle of masks and social distancing
to slow the spread of a mysterious virus 
the world has never seen;
a time when lives are being lost 
so quickly that unprecedented steps
are taken to close airports, schools, 
restaurants, all businesses that are unnecessary,
(except to those who own them).

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When that shadow falls across my couch,
the stark reality of my solo life without
the company of friends and family
comes into sudden sharp focus.
I find myself in search of a dog.

I approach the search with the angst
of an uncertain bride, or a woman
wondering if she’s really ready 
to have a child;
but nothing in life is ever totally
right or certain, 
so I go to the sites, read the stories, 
view the pictures, send in applications—
and wait.

I am especially drawn to Chevy,
a little gray and white Shih Tzu
abandoned in Denver and found
lying by a small yellow truck in the
front yard of an empty house.
His big brown eyes look at me
from his photo and I am smitten. 
I place the application.

I breathe a sigh of ambivalent relief
when I find out the next day that
Chevy has been adopted by his foster family.
I would quit my search and now, 
COVID-19 would be my only uncertainty.

A week passes; then a call comes.
Could I adopt Chevy that afternoon?
His adoption has failed and he needs a home.
Sometimes it’s best not to think.
I take a leap and say, Yes!

So we start slowly, Chevy and I.
I give him food.
   He eats.
I give him a bed.
   He sleeps.
I take him for walks.
   He sniffs.
I sit on the couch.
   He snuggles.
Trust replaces fear.

Last night, I woke up
and listened to his breathing, much
like I listened to my babies’ breathing 
years ago. 

Yes, this is a new companion,
a new journey.  So let’s just take it
day by day, 
breath by breath—
kind of like what we’re doing now
in the times we’re living in.

Terry McDanald Zajac is a retired speech/language therapist and reading teacher who lives in Arvada.