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Heads & Tails: The Pets that Helped Us Survive the Pandemic

Collage of pet photos

Throughout the pandemic, our PWR pets—including many lovely cats, dogs, and a particularly handsome yellow bird—have kept us comforted, amused, grounded in healthy routines, as well as pleasantly distracted. From keeping us company while grading and writing, to mischievously Zoom-bombing our classes, to initiating conversations with students and colleagues, our pets have become fixtures of our professional lives. For some of us, it’s going to be difficult to modify our animal-care and -comfort routines as things begin to open up. Once we return to campus in the fall, one suspects there are going to be a lot of depressed furry and feathered companions out there. Although one has heard rumors that these clever PWR critters are currently organizing, and that they plan to lobby for treat expense accounts and pet-door access to Sweet Hall...

Who are the wonderful pets of PWR? We’ve put together a comprehensive (and adorable) slideshow for your viewing pleasure, but here are a few anecdotal accounts:

Donna: Spackle

Spackle the cat


Spackle is 17 pounds of love and fur, accompanied, at times, by biting and scratching. Apparently, when you’re born in a wall and mothered from a young age by a human rather than a cat, you may end up being differently socialized. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t swap him out for any other.  Who else would increase my efficiency by laying on my tiny desk and covering my keyboard with his tail?

Shannon: Beast & Buffy

Beast and Buffy

My cat Beast has given me over 14 years of love and laughs. He's the neediest cat you'll ever meet, which made teaching on zoom sort of hilarious (he wants all of my attention, all of the time). I mostly locked him out of my teaching space, but occasionally he'd find his way in and sort of meow/yell/moan in the background, making both my students and myself fall out with laughter. It was joyful and a delightful way to bring levity into conversations about activism over these past months. 

My sweet, sweet dog Buffy (an old German Shepherd) is a fluff of love. The gratitude I have for her presence can't be understated. We have our routine that includes morning cuddles, a long walk, and her sitting on my feet (usually snoring). She squeals with delight when I enter a room, and my heart does the same when I see her (albeit, in a less auditory way). Everyone loves her so much. A quick example of her big heart: if someone is sad, she gently places her chin on their knee or lap and looks up at them soulfully.  

Both of my animals made numerous appearances on Zoom with students, which frequently was read as an invitation for students to run around their own homes, collecting their own animals to show. One of my students brought the tiniest little piggy into frame, and we all squealed with collective joy. 

Kath: Howie & Boofus

Howie and Boofus

Although Howie, as a personal assistant cat, enjoys the pandemic, jumping onto laps, laptops, cursors, shelves, and other tempting ledges, Boofus has not enjoyed the pandemic, preferring a nice quiet space. The moment the kids went back to their part-time school schedule, Boofus lay back and relaxed, possibly for the first time in over a year. Her feeling is that if there are greedy, sticky, grabby seven-year-old hands, there is no peace. Howard, however, sulked when the kids were gone, moping by the front door and sighing--exactly the way my grandfather would when we climbed one of his orchard trees and started dropping fruit before picking time. In other words--a bone-deep sigh. Now? Kids in camp has Boofus thrilled and giving a tummy-trap show and Howie trying to write my papers for me. 

Roberta: Squince & Vita

Squince and Vita

Both my cat Squince and dog Vita have been absolutely delighted to have both parents home during this pandemic. Squince demonstrated his pleasure by taking up a near-permanent post on my desk, sometimes sitting on top of my notes or nuzzling up against my neck or walking on my keyboard – it’s a wonder I got any work done! He was often in my computer camera’s direct line of vision, so he regularly showed up to my Zoom classes and became something of a class mascot. Vita would typically hang out in my husband’s office, but every now and then she would wander out to where I was working in the kitchen to see how I was doing. I always appreciated the opportunity to take a break from the computer screen and rub her fluffy head. I was especially grateful to have Vita as a quarantine buddy, because she gave me an excuse to take a walk outdoors every day, which was invaluable during the height of the shelter-in-place order when I easily could have stayed at home sitting in front of the computer all day.

Teddy and Zoe

My dogs, Teddy and Zoe, are rarely on screen (since they’re big dogs, they tend to hang out on the floor, though sometimes Teddy will climb up on the armchair behind me and sulk), but they’re usually at my feet when I teach or I’m in meetings. I actually wore headphones for most the pandemic because I never knew when they were going to jump up and start barking madly at the Amazon delivery person, a squirrel, and odd noise…One of the best parts of having them around, beyond the cuddles, has been that they get me out of my chair and out of the house for at least 20 minutes during working hours (when possible) for a brief walk in the fresh air.  It was nice to have that occasional reminder (dog sighs, sad looks, nose nudges) that I needed to step away, stand up, and clear my head.

Ruth: Many Many Furry Family Members

Small Dog

We lack what the Talmudic rabbis called "shalom bayit," a harmonious home of mutual respect and understanding.  4 grown children, 5 pets and sometimes 9+ foster puppies have made our pandemic life exciting, like the bike path in front of Hume one minute before classes.

Since the litters were adopted, we've repaired the house and the yard, and now enjoy a more comfortable low-level of cat Cold War and dogs who duck out of the way. The four-footed line-up looks like this: Ragnar and Roosevelt (13 yo cat siblings), Bizi (6 yo, the 30 lbs Thanksgiving Turkey sized cat, who fails to understand "no means no"), Ginger (5 yo; pictured right), Ella, (16 mo  40 lbs Taiwanese brindle pup adopted in January 2021). Two-footed critters: Aniko 35, Max 28, Isaac 25, Eli 21. How's your pandemic peacefulness going?

Visit the full PWR Pet Photo Album to see even more of our furry (and feathery) companions -- and add your own pet pictures and captions!

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