The Leash as a Lifeline
The global pandemic of the 2020 monumentally reshaped our sense of home and family, whether we live together or maintain relationships with kinfolk virtually.
With my family located in another city, my pod consisted of my dog Mingus. He’s a seven-year-old poodle mix with Muppet tendencies.
As the pandemic continued, Mingus and I left any species hierarchy behind. Settling into a surreal life, we negotiated various routes around our daily neighborhood walks. And, once it re-opened, we made regular visits to our favorite dog park.
My mental health flagged as quarantine continued. The leash became my lifeline, giving both of us unexpected adventures to anticipate each day.
Some rare outings were the occasional meetings of our dog club, orchestrated by a former neighbor, Hayley Spinks. We would socially distance in her lovely backyard littered with colorful blooms, have a drink, and watch the dogs.
Her senior bichons, MissyLu, bald from alopecia due to Cushing’s, and Annie, a fluffy snowball, are quite the pair. After adopting Annie as a pup, Hayley was looking to add to the pack. Following a visit from a dog that wasn’t a good match, MissyLu came into their lives.
“MissyLu was an owner surrender. The gentleman who brought her in was heartbroken because they could not afford the care she needed,” she explained. “He sent her heartworm medicine which had the owner’s name on it. I was able to look them up and send a letter letting them know she had been adopted and was loved and taken care of.”
Her dogs offered Hayley a sense of normalcy and routine during the pandemic, often acting as icebreakers while they were out on walks. During shutdown, we appreciated more than ever the vital importance of sharing brief exchanges with our neighbors.
Through her work with Good Neighbors Animal Rescue, for whom she has fostered more than ten dogs, Hayley met Maddie Love, who caught the rescue bug as a junior at TCU and never looked back.
Love’s own family of animals runs seven deep, consisting of Belle, a 12-year-old Jack Russell; Miley, 7-year-old rat terrier; Titan, a 3-year-old cane corso; and the pit bulls Diva, Koda, Diamond, and Vanilla Bean.
Love started funding rescues on her own in 2019, eventually making it official under the auspices of Love & Paws Rescue about a year ago. She has rescued more than 110 dogs and 70 cats. When asked for a highlight, she tells the story of Sunny.
Part of a semi-feral pack of more than 40 animals left behind when their owner died, Sunny was a senior dog who had never been socialized and remained unsure of people. Love was not sure Sunny could find a home until a wonderful family saw her story on Facebook.
“They had the patience and understanding, as well as the love to give a dog that was broken and needed it. She still takes special attention and probably always will. But they have no problem putting in extra time to their routine for her to feel comfortable,” Love said. “It’s very rare that a family puts the dog’s needs before their desires. They accept that she doesn’t want to play fetch, go on car rides, or do ‘normal’ dog things, and they love her anyway.”
Our beloved animals transform us. They impact our lives in ways we could never imagine before they enter our homes and become a part of our families. We share love and comfort, speaking secret languages as we become devoted to one another.
For Madeworthy editor Lee Virden Geurkink, her “dogcat” Spot became a source of sweet salvation following her divorce, especially when her children were with their father.
“I was alone for the first time in my life for 50% of the time. Spot is a great listener. I would talk to him (still do), and he would listen intently,” she recalled. “Then he would roll over and lick his nethers. But simply having another living being in the house kept me sane(ish).”
The charming camaraderie has only grown with the addition of Fido (a female cat) to the household. According to Lee, both cats help her teenagers with homework during remote learning, despite occasionally disrupting classes by sitting on the keyboard, demanding attention.
Perhaps, if we are lucky, the past year has taught us the true value of the friends and connections we make throughout life. This goes double for the furry ones who curl up beside us or plop down in our laps and remind us to live in the moment and take one day at a time.
An Austin native, Lyle Brooks relocated to Fort Worth in order to immerse himself in the burgeoning music scene and the city’s rich cultural history, which has allowed him to cover everything from Free Jazz to folk singers. He’s collaborated as a ghostwriter on projects focusing on Health Optimization, Roman Lawyers, and an assortment of intriguing subjects requiring his research.