Americans began to hoard many things at the beginning of the COVID-19 era: toilet paper, canned goods, Peloton bikes, and yes, for many of us, puppy dogs.
The first time someone asked me if my dog Sam was a “Quarantine Puppy”, I was vaguely insulted. I stared at the woman across from me in the face and nearly said, “Excuse me? What did you call my son?” but instead I just looked at the puddle of pee he had just made at our feet and said, “Yes.”
But what is there to be ashamed of? A Quarantine Puppy is a great idea. During a time where there was nothing to do but sit at home, worry, and get intoxicated (unless you have real children, are an essential worker, or are some type of newscaster) a puppy is a great addition to any household.
My girlfriend and I had long discussed getting ourselves a dog from the day we moved in together but it always seemed to be the wrong time. As a comedian, I’m often on the road all night, or away for a few days at a time. My girlfriend is a graduate student with two jobs, who is often too busy to train the animal she already lives with, much less another one.
But alas, coronavirus.
All those responsibilities were quickly replaced by Zoom cocktail hours and other “make the best of it” activities. That is, until the day our neighbors got their Quarantine Puppy named Louis.
Lou is a golden retriever with a platinum personality.
I give Lou’s humans a lot of credit. He was the first Quarantine Puppy I saw. When I met him I remember saying for the first time, a sentence I would say a thousand times over the next few months with varying amounts of enthusiasm: “What a great time to get a puppy, you know? All this time to bond and train. It’s the perfect time.”
Shortly after Lou’s arrival to the street, I walked into our living room after having given Louis a belly rub that was beneficial to us both, and I said to my lovely girlfriend “If the quarantine looks like it’s going to last much longer, maybe we should get a puppy too.”
A few seconds later my girlfriend was showing me websites with rescue dogs and I knew right then that we would soon have a puppy of our own.
But not that soon.
Because in just the few weeks after Louis had arrived on our street, Quarantine Puppies had become a certified trend. We learned very quickly that it was not going to be easy to get a dog, even a rescue dog because, without bars to wait in line for, people were waiting in line for puppies.
But, we soldiered on. My heroic girlfriend would send several emails a day to various rescue shelters in multiple New England states and I would nod and thank her for that.
We had to give references to each place, and many rescues checked every single one. My friends and landlord would send me texts like “I got another call asking if you would be a good dog owner, and I said, yes.” I was happy my friends thought I would not beat a dog, but I also felt a little weird having them get so many calls on my behalf.
We came close to adopting a few dogs but they would always get adopted by someone else within a matter of minutes of being put on the shelter’s website. We were gutted every time. And we weren’t even “puppy only.” We would take almost any dog. A few times we would make it to the second round of interviews, only to again lose the dog to another couple, who I always imagined to be wealthy and undeserving.
The path to getting a new puppy is laid with heartbreak, and we were just about getting tired of it when we finally got lucky.
My girlfriend and I had gotten into the habit of checking a few shelter’s websites, multiple times a day. Many times we would screenshot a dog and send it to the other, without a caption, just waiting for a “Yes” or “No”. Then one day, my girlfriend called me as I was out walking off whatever I had just read or seen on the news, and before I even answered I had a feeling this was it. I mean a phone call? It’s gotta be serious.
She sent me a picture of a gorgeous puppy dog from Tennessee. His mother was a purebred Australian Cattle Dog and his father was a Boxer Mix. I immediately said yes, and she quickly hung up and sent in what would be our 6 thousandth application for a rescue dog.
But this time, we got him.
Two weeks later, my girlfriend and I were driving to Woburn in anxious silence to pick up our Sam.
We decided to name him “Sam” after “Uncle Sam”, whose $1200 stimulus check greatly factored into his purchase. We wanted to always remember the weird and special time we got our little guy, without naming him something that is a bummer like Rona, Fauci, or Fireworks.
I’m writing this blog less than two months into owning Sam (or being owned by Sam, haven’t figured that out yet) and he has been pretty much a dream dog. Now if you had asked me how it was going during that first week, I would have been too upset to answer.
The first week is very hard. You are anxious and afraid, the puppy is anxious and afraid. It bites way more than you ever remember any animal even having the energy to bite. You can’t leave them alone for a second or they will destroy everything, and the worst part is, they don’t even like you yet.
We got Sam at 12 weeks and I thank God for that every day. If you ever meet someone taking care of an 8 week old puppy, just give them a hug. They need it.
At 8 weeks old they are much more animal than dog at that point. 14 weeks is when they start to act like they remember the day before.
But alas, we have made it through the teething phase and Sam is amazing. As I write this very blog, he sits at my feet. Sure, I’ve had to get up several times to keep him from eating the trash, but right now he is at my feet.
I love having a dog. I love walking him around Southie and seeing the smiles he puts on peoples faces. I love taking him to the dog park and watching him make friends with the other Quarantine Puppies. I even love picking up his poop, leaving a smear on the sidewalk and doing my part to contribute to South Boston’s World Record attempt for sidewalk poop smears.
Having a Quarantine Puppy is like the rest of life these days, there are good days, bad days, and days where you have to start getting buzzed in the morning. But I would still highly recommend it to anyone who has time.
Puppies do for us what we cannot always do for ourselves. The puppy is not afraid to say hello to the neighbors. The puppy is not afraid to just let it all out and go crazy. The puppy is not afraid to sleep for hours in the middle of the day. Simply, the puppy is not afraid to show the love. All of these things are great examples that they set for us, and all they ask for in exchange is that we treat them like kings and walk them three times a day.
Not a bad deal if you ask me.