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Commentary: Man's Best Friends

EMILY SCHUTZ, HOST: Our live are filled with chores: Doing the dishes. Folding the clothes. Walking the dogs. But sometimes an obligation can become the thing you really need. My co-host David Marques has this audio essay.


The winter of 2020 was a bleak time for me.

I’d always been a little on the melancholy side, but the combination of short days and pandemic isolation really took a toll. I would wake up at 2 in the afternoon and lie in bed until it was dark outside.

I wasn’t employed. I’d been rejected from a couple of internships, so I had a lot of time to spare. And strangely enough, that’s what ended up saving me.

My sister’s a teacher, and she was pregnant with her second child at the time. Unlike me, she got up early. She was actually busy.

So she called me up one day and asked, “Hey, can you come by tomorrow afternoon and take care of the dogs?”

The dogs. She had two of them: Kronos, a little brown terrier mutt with a snaggle tooth. And Luke, an Australian Shepherd puppy who quickly grew to the size of my 3 year old niece. Kronos was older, and more independent. Luke was rambunctious and attached to people at the hip.

So I went over one mild Friday. As much as I loved the dogs, it was still a chore getting dressed and getting out of bed.

I walked through the gate into the backyard. My brother-in-law opened the back door and out stormed Luke, energetic as ever. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do to tire him out, like my sister asked. I tried chasing him around, but he was much faster than me.

So I settled on fetch. Sometimes he would catch his foam ball in midair; other times it would land right on his head. But he enjoyed it, so much so that he ignored his heavy panting.

Kronos was watching all this from behind the glass door, frustrated that he had to wait. But I couldn’t leave him disappointed. We took a nice long walk around the surrounding blocks. No tree went unsniffed, and no telephone pole went unsoiled.

My tri-weekly visits soon became a ritual. By the end of the next week, it wasn’t quite so hard to get out of bed and throw on a pair of jeans.

There wasn’t time to be depressed playing with Luke. He could hardly contain himself between every throw. I had to make sure he didn’t nip my hand when I went to go pick up the ball.

Even after my sister’s school year ended early, I kept seeing the dogs three days a week. Every time Luke heard the back gate open, he would howl and wag his tail, convinced it was me. And whenever Kronos came over, he’d nudge me, nod towards my sneakers, and run to the door.

Kronos and Luke got me through that dark winter and into a brighter spring. They got me through to my move to Manhattan and the start of my year at Columbia.

But just as I was starting that new phase of my life, Kronos got sick. He had an intense surgery in May to remove a tumor. He seemed to be getting better for a few months, but then he stopped wanting to go for a walk. He died in October.

I still haven’t gotten over the loss – Kronos was irreplaceable. Sometimes I pull up videos on my phone of my niece as a baby feeding him dog food, and I smile.

And, of course, Luke is still a big part of my life. When he gets tired from fetch, he falls asleep with his head in my lap.

Sometimes I get a little homesick, and that’s when I ask my sister for a favor: canI come over and throw a slobbery ball to the big old dog? Even though I’m a little busy, I think I can time for fetch.

David Marques, Columbia Radio News.

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