Like everyone else, the Coronavirus Pandemic is hitting me really hard right now. Several presentations that I was scheduled to give have been canceled. I also got word yesterday that my latest contribution to a Chicken Soup for the Soul book isn’t going to be published until May of 2021. This situation has also turned my world upside down in terms of my caregivers. Given that I work with college students and their classes have moved online, most students have chosen to move home for the rest of the semester. That means my team of caregivers dwindled from four to one in about two days. I’m lucky in the sense that I usually work from home, so I didn’t have to go through that transition. Since my disability prevents me from driving, I don’t get out of my house as often as I want to on the best of days. Even so, the past week or two has felt different. It has only been in the times of a major personal health crisis that I have been quarantined to my house in the past. And over the last couple of days, I have been a bit stir crazy because the thought that I can’t get out of my house much even if I wanted to hasn’t been sitting very well with me.
Then I thought of Levi.
This little puppy entered my life back in August, very soon after the passing of my beloved second service dog, Leah. In my grief, my house was too quiet and I had too much time to get lost in the emotion and the thoughts that were racing around in my head. At the suggestion of my vet, Levi came into my world and I barely took a breath before he wiggled his way into my heart. A King Cavelier Charles Spaniel, Levi is the first dog that I have had in my adult life that isn’t a service dog. By contrast, both Marshall and Leah were Labradors, they weighed between 70 and 85 pounds. Levi weighs about 15 pounds. Within the first few days of sharing my home, he taught himself how to balance on my lap while I am pushing myself in my wheelchair. He is a bundle of energy, a bundle of joy and, at this point, I simply can’t imagine what my life would be like without him.
The thing is, Levi runs faster than I do, and he knows it. Also, in his puppy exuberance, he chews everything in his path. In the months we have been together, he has chewed through an electric cord, bitten paint off the door frame of my office, and turning over my box of recycling and chewing on the contents is one of his favorite games. He also likes to make mincemeat out of the brakes on my wheelchair. While I admire his enthusiasm, I love him and I want to keep him safe, so he spends a whole lot of time in his crate in my living room, with the door closed. Because I wouldn’t be fast enough to keep him out of trouble, that is where he stays unless I have a caregiver in the house with me.
Make no mistake, Levi doesn’t like the long hours in his crate some days. He would much rather be free to run on the floor with reckless abandon. And when we put him back in his crate, sometimes he whines in protest. I have learned over time to keep some things in there to keep him busy. A few toys that he loves to chew on. One of my old socks with a bunch of holes in it. A milk bone or two in case the hunger pangs hit and a frozen Kong filled with Kibble and peanut butter is an extra special treat. Usually, if I talk to him for a bit when he goes back into his crate for a while, he listens. I tell him this is temporary and it is only for his safety. I remind him that I would be crushed if anything bad happened to him. After a few minutes, he calms down and makes the best of it. He is really good at entertaining himself.
It occurred to me the other day that I had a choice. I could whine and protest about these circumstances or I could follow Levi’s example and calm down, keep myself busy and make the best of it. What is going on now is only temporary and, just like with everyone else, these precautions are being taken to keep me safe and well.
Soon enough, we will all be able to get out and explore the world with reckless abandon again.
Thank you, Levi! I love you to the moon and back again!