Day 27 of our quarantine. We have not left the house in almost a month. Things are starting to get monotonous. Not in the way I thought they would.
But do you know what’s funny? My dogs are doing just fine. They aren’t even suffering. Life hasn’t changed much for them. They still chase cats. They still eat random piles of cat poop. They still take time out of their busy schedules to pee on important trees.
We have lots of local feral cats, and whenever my dogs see a cat, they bolt after it, howling, kicking up dirt clods behind their back feet. Even if you happen to be holding the leash.
My dogs never catch these cats, but they never give up either. And I admire this. Sometimes I wonder if dogs aren’t smarter than we are.
So it’s not that I have cabin fever—though I do—it’s more than that. It’s that I am going out of my freaking mind. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not Joe Extrovert, I am definitely the kind of guy who could lock himself in a room and read books until his 80th birthday.
And I don’t mean good books, either. I’m talking about books that cost a buck from the drugstore clearance bin. Books like, “Cowboys and Vampires Break the Davinci Code While Losing 30 Pounds with Suzanne Somers!”
For 27 days, I’ve read enough cheap drugstore books to sink the U.S.S. Wisconsin. Also, I’ve been piddling a lot. Piddling is a lost art, but I’ve found that I’m pretty good at it.
I can putter around the house, doing ridiculous tasks with the same level of importance you’d use to perform neural surgery. I cleaned my workbench, for instance. I tested a few cordless drill batteries. I spent an hour separating bolts from screws, then tossed them all back together again. I took down the Christmas lights. I finally got around to watching “Doctor Zhivago.”
I have been playing a lot of radio while I piddle in my garage. But the radio is a joke. There is nothing good on radios anymore. Have you noticed this? It’s like the local DJs know nobody is listening so they don’t even try anymore. Here is a radio dialogue excerpt:
“HEY EVERYBODY! WE’RE GONNA PLAY ANOTHER NON-STOP CHAIN OF THE MOST GODAWFUL MUSIC YOU’VE EVER HEARD UNTIL SOMEONE BURSTS INTO OUR STUDIO AND BLUDGEONS US TO DEATH WITH A RUBBER CHICKEN! HAHAHA!”
But the radio is better than the newspaper. I can’t read newspapers anymore.
I am getting really proficient at clipping my toenails, too. Which is not an easy skill for a long-legged guy like me. Some folks are short-legged, or flexible. These people can clip their toenails without issues. But me? I have to get into a special chair, hike up my right leg, contort my body, rearrange my liver, say the Lord’s Prayer, three Hail Marys, and hope I don’t pull a groin.
Yard work doesn’t suit me. We have a funky yard because I have neglected it for years, so now it resents me. Sometimes my yard tries to grow, but this is only because it’s codependent and doesn’t know what else to do with itself. One day I just know my yard is going to get angry enough to confront me.
I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t know how my dogs do it. How can they enjoy being so lethargic? How do they stick to a strict regime of sleeping, eating, and scratching on the bathroom door when I’m doing my business? How? I wish I could love it the same way they do.
There’s something beautiful about their approach to life, if you ask me. They have the ability to enjoy everything. I’ve been home for 20-some-odd days, and I’m starting to grow moss on my hindparts. But my dogs are completely happy to keep doing this for the rest of their lives.
I see contentment on their faces, and I am jealous. They don’t need much. They are happy to be with just me, even though I’m nothing to write home about. They are satisfied relaxing on the sofa, thrilled to be eating the same nightly supper for the next 15 years, and they love sitting in the backyard. And do you know what they do in the backyard? Nothing. They stare at the sky. That’s all.
Sometimes my dog Thelma Lou simply sits in the backyard and stares at clouds for 20 minutes on end. I enjoy watching her do this because I could never sit still this long. At first I thought she was a little “off,” but now I know better. She is very “off.”
But she is also wiser than me. Sometimes, I sneak up behind her and join her in this reflective moment. I drape my arm around her. She is usually so engrossed in what she sees that she doesn’t even notice me. What does she see up there? What does she know that I don’t? What does a dog feel?
Somehow, I think my dogs were sent to earth to teach me to learn how to just be. Not to succeed, or to become more than what I am. Just to exist. This is usually the moment when I’ll kiss my dog on the snout and hug her.
And this is usually when my dog sees a cat, runs for parts unknown, rips my shoulder from its socket, and leaves me lying on the ground in a coma.
I don’t know if I’ll make it 27 more days.