The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Zoom dates? Election nights? Sourdough? Nope. Dogs are the heroes of this pandemic.

Reuben Jackson, 64, is getting through the pandemic with the help of his beagle, Buddy.
Reuben Jackson, 64, is getting through the pandemic with the help of his beagle, Buddy. (Reuben Jackson)
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The dogs are here and they’re the ones saving us, in so many ways.

Thank you, Chica, our sweet terrier mix from Puerto Rico, for every night you knew to curl up just behind my knees when I couldn’t fall asleep, fretting about school and riots and my family.

Thank you, Glitch, our lanky old hound from New Orleans, for knowing the right moment to put your head on my angsting husband’s knee. You did that little thing with your eyebrows — scientists say dogs developed eyebrow communication to better connect with us — looked at him with your caramel eyes, wagged that white tip at the end of your black-whip tail, and defused World War III.

And thanks to them both for racing into the boys’ rooms like a nurses’ brigade when one of them began raging in frustration over the 763rd hour of Zoom school or a fight with a friend or a blowout in Overwatch, and pressing your furry bodies to them like big, warm poultices of love and comfort.

The dogs are saving us.

Most Americans know this. Dogs and humans go way back to the campfire. Ancient man made a deal with the wolves — we’ll give you scraps, you give us protection and companionship, wholesome loyalty, even longevity.

The American Heart Association found, in a review of studies that included 3.8 million people, that “dog ownership was associated with a 24% risk reduction for all-cause mortality as compared to non-ownership.”

After finishing the wine and the sourdough experiments and feeling still unfulfilled and uneasy, thousands of Americans flocked to animal shelters to find the kind of comfort, love, nonjudgmental understanding and loyalty that dogs uniquely offer.

Shelters across the country have been picked clean of dogs and folks now have to apply seven or eight times before they get lucky.

A plane full of dogs ready to be rescued

Because dogs are good for us.

Reuben Jackson, 64, knows this firsthand.

“I go to bed to read, listen to music, send e mails- just be. He follows. I feel lucky,” the D.C. poet and jazz scholar recently wrote on Facebook about his rescue beagle, Buddy. “Appreciated . . . Dare I say it? Cared for . . . Dear Buddy. A blessing in Middle age.”

I started following Jackson on social media because he was a Smithsonian jazz archivist for decades and had a public radio jazz show in Vermont. I was expecting to learn more about jazz from him — but his poetic tributes (“Buddy is my Dulcinea”) along with sweet selfies of him, with his archivist’s spectacles and snow-white pandemic beard and Buddy the Beagle, were the real treat.

They saved each other in February 2018, Jackson told me. “He’s a rescue. And a spunky, loving, perceptive sweetheart.”

And there’s Leo — the charming, sweet-faced, perky-eared Sato from Puerto Rico (maybe Chica’s cousin?), who deserves credit for getting the Lobaugh family moving.

A plane coming in from Puerto Rico — filled with dogs

“Our little rescue from Puerto Rico has literally saved us,” said Betsy Lobaugh of Arlington, whose family often hikes and walks the region — driven into the healing, restoring power of nature by the needs of Leo.

“We hit the doggy jackpot and it has made our family so much happier and healthier,” said Lobaugh.

Thank you Penny the pocket beagle for keeping my parents from feeling so alone and isolated while they endure nearly a year without seeing their grandkids.

And thank you Barnabas the golden retriever for giving my in-laws joy and slobber when their grandsons can’t be there to mess up their house.

But dogs are providing more than companionship and love during the dark days of the pandemic. They can save us in other ways, too.

Blaze the Labrador retriever has been training in Pennsylvania to detect the presence of coronavirus on humans. The Miami Heat announced last week that the team will begin using coronavirus-sniffing dogs like Blaze to help them monitor spectators as they return to the stadium.

Trials have shown the dogs hitting nearly 100 percent accuracy, and they’re already being used in airports in Finland, the United Arab Emirates and Chile.

The dogs will save us.

And thank you, finally, to First Doggos Major and Champ, the German shepherds who moved into the White House with the Bidens on Sunday. As they bounded on the South Lawn, they were a welcome reminder to America of what normal looks like.

It’s no coincidence our nation’s recent, dark days happened at the same time there were no canines in the White House. President Donald Trump was one of only a handful of presidential oddballs who didn’t have dogs in the White House.

Thank Dog they’re back. And we’re all on the path to normal.

Twitter: @petulad

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