Gia's Soft Fur

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Gia's Soft Fur
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I will always remember the feeling of my dog Gia's soft fur and the tickle and wetness of her silky tongue licking my hand during this pandemic. These sensory experiences soothed me during a stressful and anxiety-ridden time during the COVID pandemic.
When the pandemic worsened in March 2020 and the state of Utah went into a full lockdown, my family's life changed suddenly. My son's birthday party was canceled. My children began school online. My husband no longer found himself flying to New York or Los Angeles, and I found myself filled with worry and anxiety. How will my elderly parents weather this pandemic? Will I get them sick? Will I be responsible for their deaths? Will my 9-year-old son become depressed because he can no longer play hockey or football? How will my 13-year-old handle feeling emotionally isolated because she can no longer hang out with her friends? All of these worries plagued my mind and made my body stiff, my neck sore, my mood heavy with stress.
My family soon found ourselves in a new routine. We spent more quality time together since we were no longer rushing to get to activities. There was more time for dinner and meaningful conversation. However, there was still a heaviness, and everything seemed to be wrapped in a layer of anxiety.
An unexpected text from my sister-in-law (who is an animal control officer) changed our lives. A darling 3-year-old black and white miniature poodle had just been dropped off at the shelter. Her elderly owner had died of COVID-19, and this sweet dog needed a home. After a quick family meeting, it was unanimous; we wanted the dog!
Gia immediately became more than a pet; she became a source of comfort and calm to me. With a sweet temperament, she always seemed to know when I was full of anxiety. Each night I would sit on the couch watching the nightly news, my body tight and sore, the rigidness seeping into my muscles that comes with prolonged stress.
Unaware at first that I was even doing it, I would reach for Gia, who would lay close to me, and begin stroking her fur. Often, her silky pink tongue would lick my hand, and the combination soothed and relaxed my body. Even as worry began to swirl in my mind, the questions continuing: when will it be our turn to catch this virus? Will I have lasting effects from it? Gia was there, her warm body lying beside mine, her soft fur between my fingers relaxing my body and easing my mind.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, I had read that almost all the rescue dogs had been adopted across the nation. I guess I was not the only person in need of emotional comfort during this isolating time. This pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone I know. I feel so grateful that Gia came into our lives during this pandemic. This sweet dog has become more than a pet. She has become an emotional support dog for my daughter when she is lonely and a physical companion for my son when he needs to run crazy through the house. Gia is there when my nerves are frazzled from worry about the pandemic. She gently lays her warm body next to mine, as if knowing I need her near me to ease my anxiety. I stroke her soft fur, close my eyes, and remind myself to BREATHE.

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text story

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Pandemic Pets>Pets & Mental Health

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This item was submitted on January 22, 2021 by Pamela Zupo using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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