We don’t have sports. We don’t have live music. We don’t have theater.
What do we have?
We have each other.
We have our families, our friends, and our coworkers, even if we have to keep our distance.
And I’ve got a 9-month-old puppy named Roxie.
My little Cavapoo doesn’t know about the coronavirus.
Every morning when she wakes up, her tail is wagging. She’s happy to see me. She licks my face.
She wants to go outside and play.
She doesn’t practice social distancing.
Our morning walks take my mind off the latest headlines and the news alerts that raise my blood pressure.
We greet our neighbors and fellow dog walkers. Little children squeal with delight when they see her.
We go to the Schuylkill dog park. While she runs and jumps on her canine companions, I stand around with the other dog owners and we talk about our dogs, our children, our jobs. And we talk about the coronavirus.
How could we not?
Sharing our fears and anxieties somehow is comforting. We’re not in this alone.
And, for now at least, the dog park is open and a safe place to gather in the late-winter sun and commiserate.
Roxie also likes to frolic along the Schuylkill River Trail, sniffing in the grass close to the water’s edge, between Locust and Walnut Streets.
On a recent Sunday, we saw runners wearing sweatshirts and hats advertising universities and sports teams that are no longer functioning, at least not in a way we have come to expect.
We see parents pushing infants in strollers, and bicyclists weaving in and out of traffic.
Spring is coming, and everything almost looks normal. The occasional walker sports a face mask.
My phone buzzes with the latest news. CNN tells me there are more than 3,000 coronavirus cases in the United States. and 61 people have died.
Those numbers are sure to be out of date by the time you read this op-ed.
So many institutions that we rely upon have closed: universities, schools, libraries, museums, movie theaters.
My workplace, like so many others, is telling people to work from home.
We’re social animals. We can’t live in isolation.
So Roxie and I will keep going on our walks. We’ll keep going to the dog park and the Schuylkill River Trail.
When she’s too tired to move, I pick her up.
When I’m feeling down, she picks me up.
Frank Bruni, a New York Times columnist, recently wrote that “Dogs Will Fix Our Broken Democracy” because “they yank us outside of our narrowest selves. They force us to engage.”
Pets can help keep us sane while we try to find a way to slow this contagion. So wash your hands, cough into your elbow, and keep a safe distance when you can.
But don’t stop doing the things that make life worth living.
Roxie wouldn’t want that.
Brian Leighton is a deputy managing editor at The Inquirer.