Call it one of the few upsides to our present predicament: Dara Morgenstein, like many of us, is seeing a lot more of her dog Bella than she used to. Currently on hiatus from her full-time job at a local health care facility, the Massapequa dog mom and her 6-year-old pug have reconnected to a degree not previously imaginable.
Morgenstein is more acutely aware than ever of “the separation anxiety Bella felt when I was gone for 12 hours a day,” an anxiety now replaced by the stress that comes with spending nearly every waking moment with her owner. Quarantine takes its toll on not just man but beast, Morgenstein believes, which is why she has begun regularly giving Bella various “spa treatments,” to their mutual benefit.
“As soon as I run the bath, she makes a long-running dash down the hallway,” she says. It’s not hard to see why. Among the services Morgenstein offers are camomile bubble baths, paw-dicures, and the sinful pleasure that is shaking and rolling around in fresh towels. “It’s so calming and soothing for her,” she reports. “You can see her personality change.”
Morgenstein's loving sensitivity to Bella’s mental state made us wonder how other Long Island dogs are handling this new normal. So we asked them.
I am naturally a loner, like many a Maltipoo. Nonetheless, over the years I have selflessly provided my owner with many evenings of enchantment, not to mention all the mood-boosting, stress-reducing companionship that being a modern pet demands. How have I been able to do it? One word: daytime. Even as I rolled over, treat-begged and shook hands ad nauseam, I did so cheerfully, secure in the knowledge that tomorrow would bring an endless, serene series of ME moments. In March, however, and even more so in April, I experienced a dramatic reduction in alone time. It’s like they never leave. It’s like they’re trying to drive me insane. It’s like we’re in quarantine.
— Suffocating in Suffolk
These are uncertain times, as any human or Hyundai Palisade commercial will tell you. We received dozens of messages detailing similar complaints, and that’s just the dogs with internet access. The sad fact is, our human friends do not always appreciate the restorative power that is an empty house, preferring to imagine that we spend our days smoking cigars and playing poker, as if life were nothing more than a painting. The thing to keep in mind: what we are living through is nothing short of an unprecedented moment in history … for dogs. There is no playbook. “Dogs are now our proxy for other humans,” as the New York Times recently, disturbingly put it. What the Times needs to realize — in addition to the difficulty of paper-training in an increasingly digital world — is that lumping interspecies relationships with all the others risks courting the same fate. Divorces in China skyrocketed during the pandemic, and the same could happen here.
Up here on the North Shore, this Siberian husky is getting away with murder and I. Am. Loving. It. To my surprise and delight, stay-at-home orders have prompted a relaxed attitude toward formerly verboten behaviors — chewing Jimmie Choos, going potty on the ficus. I’ve even gotten the green light to bark at the mailman unless and until he forks over a stimulus check. In short, my tribe of humans has gained a renewed appreciation for what really matters in life.
— Pleased in Port Washington
Congratulations! It’s comforting to hear that at least one local family has taken Harry Truman’s famous words to heart: If you want a friend in Port Washington, get a dog. Ba-dum-bump.
Whatever happened to sheltering in place? Of late, I am being taken out for no fewer than a dozen walks a day, usually for long periods, and often by total strangers who wear the same pajamas for weeks on end. Furthermore, whatever benefits all this fresh air might confer are being rudely canceled by barely-leashed canines whose fanaticism precludes any serious discussion of neutering status. How, may I ask, is a female dachshund supposed to practice social distancing in spring?
— Lady, Hauppauge
Welcome to love in the time of corona — when dog runs aren’t considered essential and scrolling the apps leads, more often than not, to being benched by a beagle, or worse, catfished by an actual cat. The days of passion in the park while one’s humans consider the limits of “they’re just playing” are over for now, I’m afraid. Flirt if you must, but don’t make any commitments while the supply chains are disrupted. And remember: a polite no is infinitely preferable to self-isolating in East Moriches with a chihuahua who refuses to hand over the remote. I speak from experience.
I am a Great Dane in my mid-30s [dog years, Ed.] and over the past several weeks my significant owner has been bombarded by a slew of advertisements and news programs highlighting dogs’ heroism. She won’t STOP talking about that Rottweiler dutifully providing remote therapy visits or the golden retriever who delivers groceries to the housebound. Worse, the woman has totally bought into this trend of renaming dogs after health care workers and first responders. I find it all unnerving, to say the least.
— Dr. Clifford Yang, Commack
What you are describing is one of the crueler byproducts of a celebrity dog culture that dates back to the early days of Rin Tin Tin. My suggestion: tell your owner that you’ll start acting like a TV dog when she starts feeding you like the dogs in TV commercials, namely the one that promises human-grade meat. Nothing heroic ever came of that sawdust they sell at wholesale clubs.