Sirius, a German shepherd/retriever mix, who is 12 weeks old.

Sirius, a German shepherd/retriever mix, who is 12 weeks old. Credit: Newsday/Randi F. Marshall

A few weeks ago, we bought baby monitors and gates, along with new food, toys, and a small bed. We joined many other New Yorkers who added a family member while the coronavirus pandemic forced us all to stay home.

Meet Sirius, a German shepherd/retriever mix, and our new puppy.

We named him, of course, after the dog star — one of the brightest stars in the sky. He has brightened our household at an awfully dark time.

Sirius came to us from a kill shelter in Tennessee. Many a reader might also hark back to the story of Harry Potter’s godfather — Sirius Black.

Spoiler alert: Black was an innocent man who did his own time in a dark place before he was freed, who protected all he cared about. That’s not our puppy’s direct namesake — but the story of Sirius Black certainly is not a bad legacy to have, either.

We rescued him — but he might have rescued us, too.

The last few months have been a time of stress, of sadness, and ugly moments, and much loss of life across this country. But as we begin to open our doors again, we can brighten the darkness after staying inside for months by opening our hearts as well. We can volunteer to deliver food to those in need, or sew masks for our neighbors and friends. Or, with a bit of patience, hope and goodness, we can save a life and bring some joy — and puppy kisses — into our homes.

There are dogs, cats and rabbits who need our love, and as we emerge from quarantine, the need for pet foster families or adopters remains. It might be a tough and lengthy process, as shelters and rescues are overwhelmed, relying solely on volunteers to do their important work. But it’s worth the wait.

And it seems we’re not alone. Anecdotally, Long Island- and New York City-based shelters and rescues have seen more interest for adopting or fostering pets during the pandemic. The ASPCA has reported a nearly 70% increase in animals going into foster care in Los Angeles and New York City, compared with the same period last year.

It’s been just a few weeks since we brought Sirius home. He’s playful and cuddly and smart. At 12 weeks, and more than 10 pounds, he’s still learning, and so are we. He loves a good treat, a good belly rub, or a nap in his bed or on the comfy Tinker Bell blanket our daughter, Julia, used to love so much. He has picked up several favorite tricks, such as “paw” and “down,” and whenever he hears Julia’s footsteps, he stops what he’s doing, and sits patiently, tail wagging.

All of us should thank pet-rescue organizations for the work they do, including PupStarz Rescue, which connected us with our new addition. We thank Sirius’ foster mom for taking him in with kindness and love during his first few days in New York.

And we thank Sirius, for being our bright star at a time when we all need some light.

Randi F. Marshall is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.


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