Pets and the pandemic: 'They aren't mine, but I consider them family'

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  • A high school pupil only got to know loneliness when the country went into lockdown.
  • She, however, made friends with her landlords' dogs and started helping to care for them.
  • She now fully understands why dogs are called man’s best friend.

Being an only child has its perks, but like with most things in life, there are downsides as well.

*Serina Ferguson, a 16-year-old high school pupil, didn’t really know what “lonely” was until the pandemic hit and the country went into lockdown.

She is an only child, who lives with her elderly parents and their landlords.

“I have friends, but they all have siblings. While we do keep in contact, they spend a bunch of time with their siblings, and there is only so much we’re able to do via a cell phone,” she says.

Season of loneliness

It wasn’t long before Serina realised that you could be surrounded by people, but still feel incredibly lonely.

“I love my parents and their landlords immensely. They are the most wonderful people and I have great respect for them, but they’re older in every way – mentally, physically, emotionally, even spiritually.

“My mom is also extremely protective, and at the beginning of the lockdown she was the only one in our family to set foot off the property, and therefore the only one to see other people,” said Ferguson.

The teen quickly became tired of the same routine, the same television shows, the same mundane conversations over instant messaging platforms and all the mindless banter on social media.

“I began sitting outside, when the weather allowed, just so that I didn’t have to look at the walls anymore. 

“My landlord had four dogs who were all rescues. The youngest dog had a fiery personality and didn't like my folks one bit. My mom kept telling me to avoid him because she was afraid that he would attack me,” said Ferguson.

Over time she managed to convince her mother that the dogs were harmless and that they were simply looking for someone to play with.

New pack member

Ferguson started to develop close bonds with Nelly, Tyson, Knox, and Bingo, spending many afternoons playing with them, taking them for walks, brushing their coats, making sure they had fresh water and that their bowls were clean.

Heartbreak came when Nelly and Tyson became sick and died.

She was gutted, but she saw an opportunity to build an even stronger relationship with Bingo and Knox, helping them to live full lives.

“Growing up in a time when we aren’t allowed to move around and be ourselves is hard. I would have been at school and may have had a close friend to confide in, but I didn’t. There are things I don’t tell my parents or my friends, but I tell Bingo. Sometimes you just need to talk and not have anyone provide solutions, but just listen.

“There are days where I am so despondent, and the future seems so bleak that I want to close the curtains, curl up into a ball and block the world out. Instead, I take the dogs for a walk, get some fresh air, and enjoy the sound of the trees blowing in the wind. It helps clear my mind, and I know I'm not really alone,” says Ferguson.

Total BFFs

Ferguson added that their landlord doesn’t mind her helping to care for the dogs. “He told me that he noticed how it gave me a sense of purpose, which it’s something I enjoy doing.

“I was amazed at their loyalty. I’ve been short-tempered with them when in a bad mood, but that has never deterred them. Each time I open the door, they dart towards me, fighting for who gets a scratch behind the ear, or a snuggle, or who gets the tennis ball first in a game of catch.”

Since the government has eased the lockdown level, Ferguson has been able to spend more time with her extended family and friends.

Even though she’s able to interact with people again, she continues to spend her afternoons with Bingo and Knox. 

She says that nothing beats the bond she has with her fluffy friends, and she now fully understands why dogs are called man’s best friend.

*Not her real name

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