Unexpected savior during COVID-19

I'm going to be honest: the bloom is off the rose. I'm done with family time. What little attraction shelter-in-place once had for me is now gone. We can say how nice it is to slow things down, but all we're really doing is putting lipstick on a pig.

I've pretty much run the gamut here. From the initial elation ("Finally some quality time together!") to my manic board game phase ("See? This is FUN! We're all together and we're having FUN!") to my manic baking phase (enough bread, pretzels, bagels, baguettes and "crusty artisan loaves" to last us through till the next apocalypse).

I binge-watched gritty shows on Netflix. Those Byrdes down in the Ozarks sure are wacky! I went through an arts immersion. So many filmed versions of classic plays are now streaming. Folks, I am fully Shakespeared-out.

I went on to reading books. Hilary Mantel and Louise Erdrich and Stephen King and Joe Hill and histories of Tudor England. I appear to be cramming for some bizarre literary showdown between highbrow and the macabre.

To this mania, add in a helpless love for my family, mixed with an ever-present worry about my parents. Physical and mental health have blurred into one another. I find myself irrationally irritated with my husband, who sets up his "workspace" in the most heavily-trafficked area of the house, and then complains we're all too loud.

So what do I do? I go for a walk with the dog, my window to normalcy. To say that my dog has helped me maintain a tenuous grip on sanity these days would be an understatement. Ollie has been my salvation, a 70-pound, bowlegged, corn chip-smelling, floppy-eared savior.

If you live on the southwest side of Hinsdale, you've likely seen us. I'm the one with the basset hound (not to be confused with the lady who has the two bassets; she lives on the other side of town).

We walk slowly because that's the way Ollie wants it. We stop frequently because Ollie likes to sniff. Everything.

We make our rounds and do all the same doggie stuff we did Before, and when we are out together, I feel better.

Ollie is delighted that people are around the house all day to administer ear scratches and belly rubs. He doesn't judge me when I snap at the kids or bake (another) batch of chocolate chip despair cookies; he merely wants to lick the used butter wrapper and then take another nap. Just like always.

When I spend yet another afternoon immobile on the loveseat, Ollie doesn't question my frail emotional state; he merely parks himself, barrel-chest up, just within scratching-distance. When I slow down too much, he growls softly, keeping me in line.

We don't deserve dogs, and oh golly, I'm grateful for mine these days. Good boy, Ollie.

- Susan O'Byrne of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].