“My sister's dog has taken up painting,” remarked my sister-in-law Deb during a recent Zoom call. “He's pretty good. Abstract art, of course.”
“Yes, I can see how it would be hard to achieve realistic detail without an opposable thumb,” I replied. “But back up a minute. Her dog paints? Pictures? How?”
It’s a simple process really, and I recommend it as a stellar form of entertainment — for you and your dog — whenever pandemic pressures have you hunkering down at home. It was Deb’s niece Tessa who thought of it. She bought canvas board, covered it with blobs of paint, and taped a plastic bag over it. Then she smeared peanut butter on the plastic bag, placed it on the floor, and called the dog. Macy bounded over and enthusiastically licked off the peanut butter, which rearranged the paint underneath, creating a masterpiece. Or at least something you could frame and hang on the wall to amaze your friends. Or, as Tessa did, give your mom for Christmas.
I know. Dare I say it? Genius!
It’s moments like these that I really miss being a dog owner. Sadly, our beloved Eskimo Pie passed some years ago; how she would have loved the peanut butter art project! And as it happens, Rich and I were not among the 23 million Americans (20% of all households) who acquired dogs or cats during the pandemic. Despite stories about these Covid cuddle-buddies being jettisoned later, the ASPCA reports 90% of the dogs and 85% of the cats are still with their adopted families. In fact, trainer Kate Perry says the animal-human bond forged during the pandemic is so powerful she’s now teaching courses in “how to detach from your dog and prioritize your baby.”
“Pet adoption became an obsession in the time of Covid,” wrote Nick Paumgarten in The New Yorker. “Another boom, along with sourdough baking and butt implants.” Wait, what? That’s a thing now? Apparently so. Dermatologist Ava Shamban attributes the 20% rise in that particular surgical procedure to people becoming more sedentary while working at home, resulting in “a general flattening of the buttocks ... Presumably, seeing the higher, tighter, rounder assets on social media, or any number of reality distractions, had patients researching and ultimately scheduling procedures to give their bottom line a much-needed boost.”
I can't believe Rich and I are missing out on so many pandemic distractions. We’ve never even made sourdough bread, let alone sought surgical remedies for any deficiencies in our derrières. And our lifestyle involves too much travel to adopt a dog or cat.
“What we need,” I told Rich the other day, “is a pet without the responsibility. Why don’t we get a bird feeder?”
As my regular readers know, Rich has become engrossed in the world of pigeons, calling them “the neighbors” and studying their habits via a pair of binoculars, like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window. Rich leapt on the bird feeder idea, hoping to attract a more varied collection of feathered friends, the kinds of “pets” that can be left to their own devices for months at a time. So far he hasn’t had any takers, not even Lemondrop, the finch who spent weeks eating the seeds off our autumn chrysanthemums. But hey, the feeder’s only been up a few days.
Hearing about all this, friends tend to roll their eyes and suggest we need to get out more. And we are. With Spain’s hospitalizations dropping 28% in the last week, and Andalucía’s down 29%, we’re feeling a bit more confident about hanging out with humans. Which is a good thing because snowbird friends from New York and Canada are now flying into Seville for their annual visits, like swallows returning to Capistrano. And it’s easy to see why.
The city is at its best right now, relaxed and peaceful, with holiday revelers gone home and Omicron causing most tourists to cancel planned visits. Getting into restaurants and monuments is delightfully easy again. Last week, Rich and I strolled into the Alcazar palace without the usual fuss of advance reservations and tedious long lines. We made a beeline for the garden café, one of the loveliest spots in the city to have a coffee. When we walked inside to order, the barista asked for our Covid passports. Rich misheard him and pulled out his Alcazar entrance ticket. The barista glanced at the ticket's QR code from four feet away, accepted it without scanning or questions, and waved me through as well, even though I hadn’t shown him anything.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident; Covid passports or the equivalent, such as CDC vaccination cards, are not always checked as scrupulously as you might wish. Which is why Rich and I are not eating inside restaurants any time soon.
Covid is sweeping Seville, and two weeks ago one of our closest friends caught it and was quite ill. I naturally visited the shrine of San Pancracio (Seville’s patron saint of health) on his behalf. My sister-in-law, who also knows this friend, decided to invoke a higher power of her own creation, San Hamcracio. “In matters of healing and health, (s)he really brings home the bacon,” she said.
Whether it was the intervention of higher powers or sheer good luck, our friend wasn’t ill long and is now fully recovered, with the negative test results to prove it. Now he’s suggesting, half-seriously, that Rich and I deliberately contract Omicron, the weakest variant yet. That wouldn't be difficult; the World Health Organization predicts that within the next few weeks half of Europe will get it, and right now it seems half the households in Seville have at least one case. But I’m sticking with my plan to avoid Covid if I can. Our human neighbors are helping by masking up in public; we’re all hoping to avoid the kinds of restrictions seen in other parts of Spain.
“If there’s ever another lockdown, maybe we could rent a dog,” I said to Rich. “At least we’d have the fun of watching him create art.”
“We don’t need a dog for that,” said my husband. “Put a little pistachio ice cream on the plastic cover and I’ll lick it off.”
So there’s that to look forward to. For now, we’re keeping our fingers crossed Omicron plummets as quickly as it crested, Rich and I manage not to contract it, and Lemondrop flutters onto the bird feeder one day soon, while Rich happens to be watching.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain and currently visiting my home state of California.
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