The things we do for love

Unwritten rules have it that dog owners introduce their dogs but rarely themselves.

“That’s Steve and Frankie,” the guy at the beach says.

“How’s Simta?” Luna’s owner asks, seldom asking how I’m doing.

In the time of COVID-19, however, there’s a lot less talking. Conversation brings closeness, which for dogs signifies play.

There’s no play right now.


Canine identification has changed in other ways too.

The other day I went for a long-awaited ravine walk. Because of self-isolation and social-distancing, I had been drawn to the endless sky and sparkle of Lake Ontario. But beaches are closed now, and I was craving nature.

With no dog by my side, I started up a physically distanced conversation.

A dog walker explained that to date she’s lost only 30% of her business. Although many Torontonians are working at home and walking their dogs, she believes that her dogs still need her, and she explained why.IMG_7853

“That’s a lawyer,” she said, pointing to the doodle.

“That one’s compromised.”

The bichon frise was “86 years-old.” The beagle was “an executive who just returned from Florida and has to self-isolate.” The little terrier was “a couple who work in Toronto and Vancouver and are trying to sort it out.”

We’ve all matched the looks of dogs and their owners. (Remember the Fido ads?) But I’ve never heard of matching dogs and their owners’ professions.


The biggest blow to our dog – well, us – was the crackdown on off-leash dog parks. On March 25, our high-energy Aussie collie was no longer legally permitted to go for runs.

This rule poses a challenge because Simta’s pace is about 50 kilometres per hour. If she doesn’t get adequate exercise, she starts finding other “work” around the house. She’ll reorganize the books or scratch her way to a yummy-smelling treat that might or might not be wedged between the floorboards.


Yup, this is what our dog’s thinking.

We’ve added extra walks. (Simta now gets three or four walks a day, not just two.) We leave for the ravine at 6:15 a.m., so there’s no need to dodge other dogs and dog owners. And we think that this summer our little East York backyard might end up being a colossal dirt pit, not a garden, because Simta needs to fetch.

A friend said, “That’s great. You’re upping your daily steps!” But it’s not like that. I’m an avid walker, and I don’t need a dog to get me out of the house.

At least for now.

France has been locked down for 22 days. French citizens are allowed to leave their homes only for essential work, urgent doctor visits, grocery shopping and jogging (both within a kilometre of home) or walking the dog, writes The Globe and Mail. “No dog, no walk.”

IMG_7862I love solo walks. Will I have to jog if we lockdown?

“No dog, no walk” could also wreak havoc on our household chain of command. Doggo, not we, would call the shots. If we were desperate for air, we’d have to ask her to put everything aside and take us outside.

I jest.

They say dogs are enjoying this pandemic. Our dog definitely gets more full-time attention as well as some weird-ass in-house tricks and training. We wheel a bicycle around the house to rid Simta of her bikeophobia. We have her jump for the squeaky toy until she’s exhausted. But we sure do miss the off-leash runs.


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