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In early March, I was worried about who would walk my dog during the summer and whether I could bear to leave her for three weeks when I travelled to Tokyo for the Olympics as The Globe’s sports editor.
Scout’s walkers, two Ryerson University students who took her out every afternoon while I was at work, were planning to return home out west when their school year ended in April.
It took months to find Anna and Shayna. They were part of our pack. Scout is not an easy dog, and I fretted about finding someone new she would bond with. She is fearful and needs time to trust new people. Dog-walking outfits in our neighborhood had waiting lists. I was nervous about using a stranger from a dog-walking site. It was a problem to be solved.
Then COVID-19 arrived. Scout and I have hardly been apart since.
Unlike my colleagues who are moms, doing the impossible task of juggling our demanding newsroom jobs while taking care of and schooling their children, I live alone, just me and Scout. This is good and bad, as wonderfully explained by this piece in the Washington Post’s blog The Lily. It’s usually quiet. I can focus on work and set up my day the way I want. It’s also isolating and lonely, as Robin Wright writes in The New Yorker, and I worry about the long-term effects. An extreme introvert, I joke I have prepared my whole life for this, yet I miss my inner circle and steadfast connections. I am not baking. I have given up drinking. I’m not down for a Zoom session. Comforted by this recent piece in Slate, I find the thought of video gatherings exhausting.
For the last 10 weeks, and the foreseeable future, it’s just us.
In working from home, Scout is now my colleague as well as best friend, therapy dog and adventure buddy. We have been together 4½ years. We have been through a lot.
Some mornings, Scout joins the video news meetings. She gets me out around lunch for a walk. She protects the house from Amazon and UPS.
When you live alone and are the sports editor of The Globe and Mail, you watch a lot of sports on television. Sometimes I don’t even watch. I put them on, volume low or muted, and I do other things, putter around or read a book, nap with Scout on the couch. But even when I’m not paying attention, I know that sports are happening. They connect me to the outside world. So does watching CNN, which in the absence of sports I’m doing more of, but the news is stressful. Even Scout senses the difference. Premier League marks weekend mornings, hockey the start of Saturday night. When a game is happening, it signals the world is mostly okay. And now they aren’t, and it isn’t.
Around the time I was thinking about dog walkers, we were about to plow into the best time of year: hockey and basketball playoffs, the start of baseball, planning for the Olympics. A frantic and fabulous summer would follow a frantic and fabulous spring. Scout’s reward for living with a friend for three weeks while I was in Tokyo would be our usual August vacation in Maine. Now the Olympics are postponed and in doubt even for next year. I’m not convinced the playoffs will happen, and if they do, what will they mean now? And Maine requires an open border.
Scout doesn’t know about any of this. She knows she gets more walks than she used to. Three times a day I take a 10-minute break from whatever I’m doing for a quick training session. She has learned to wave hi. I think she likes having me around all the time, and some days I don’t know how I’d get out of bed if I didn’t have her.
I miss our evening walks during the playoffs, when we’d head out between periods or at the half. To get her home before the game resumed, I’d say in an excited voice, “The Raptors need you!” and she’d immediately pick up the pace. I still use that when it’s time to get home, or she wants to linger too long, nose on a patch of dirty sidewalk. “The Raptors need you! The Raptors need you!” and Scout breaks into a canter. One day, little girl, they will need you again. Until then, I certainly do.
A final note on dogs. We’re working at home and so are they. This Instagram account is everything. If the pandemic ends before I get Scout featured, I will have failed.
What else we’re thinking about:
During a pandemic, what does a sports editor do without sports? Well it’s obvious, isn’t it?
It’s active. In a hunched-over, on-your-knees kind of way. Oh, I’m actually not doing it. I have a shaded veranda in downtown Toronto. My landlords tend to the tulips. But I’m thinking deeply about it. In the absence of sports, a sports editor with fewer pages to fill needs something extra to do. And so I have added gardening editor to my duties and enlisted a sportswriter for the beat. Marty Klinkenberg, who had been writing predominantly about hockey and the Maple Leafs, has for the next few months turned his attention to things that grow. So far he has chronicled community gardens and a private display of Toronto’s High Park cherry blossoms. A spitballing session the other day yielded a long list of potential stories, so stay tuned.
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