Column: Enough walks already: A dog’s view of stay-at-home

Lola gets some exercise with Abby Nieto at the Burbank Five Points Art Installation.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

I just went to pet my dog and, with the calculated coolness of a celebrity, she cut me.

The brief side-eye acknowledgment, the slow stand-up, the casual removal of self to another room; it was all shockingly familiar.

“She’s not taking questions at this time,” I could almost hear her publicist say.

I get it; pets are under a lot of pressure these days. Particularly dogs, which are currently experiencing increased demands for photos, cuddles and “conversation” in these days of “Safer at Home.” There is also overwhelming volume when it comes to requests for walks, a bark-breaking-barrage of home deliveries and the inevitable irritations of constant human companionship.

It’s got to be stressful, even for dogs that, like my own two, have consistently expressed extreme displeasure when the family unit is in any way disrupted, moping when anyone leaves, then hurling themselves at us with wild “it’s been years” enthusiasm when we return. Not to mention barking distrustfully at any non-immediate-family members who even approach our door, including people they have known for years.


Their dearest wish, they have made clear with those pleading eyes whenever a suitcase appears — indeed their only wish for years — has been to be with us all day, every day.

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Well, now that wish has been granted. Thanks to the coronavirus, my husband and I, along with two of our three children are home together nonstop. And it would appear that as intelligent as dogs may be, they do not grasp the notion of irony, are not familiar with St. Teresa’s admonition that more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

Because here we are, the (almost) entire family, 24/7, trying to figure out what in the world to do with ourselves — and ain’t that, if you’ll pardon the pun, a bitch?

If only dogs kept a journal, it might go something like this.

March 13
OK, here we go. Main Dog Walker and Hardly Ever Dog Walker brought a bunch of suitcases into the house. HEDW just got back after being gone forever and now apparently she’s off again — so typical — and this time it looks like she’s taking the Last of the Litter with her; the other two young ones have already been gone forever. If they leave MDW behind it might be OK since he is the most generous with the treats and the walks, but he does yell a lot when we bark. Even though barking is our job. This family is the worst; they are always going off somewhere, forever, and they never take us and I wish they would just stay home because we love them so much. I didn’t mean it when I said they were the worst.

March 15
I can’t believe it! They’re not going! The suitcases are all put away! It’s like we made it happen! Oh, why didn’t we wish for something better, like eating raw meat every day or always smelling like we rolled in a thousand dead fish? But they are all home! HEDW is super mad because something called Airbnb is not doing something called a refund, and it is raining again so we had to poop on the patio. But they didn’t even yell and the LOTL seems very sad, unpacking her suitcase, which means lots of good cuddles.

In an attempt to slow the coronavirus, pretty much everything from the Louvre to the NBA has been closed, canceled or postponed. But it takes more than that to really cancel culture. Because if you can’t visit art, you can still make it.

March 17
They are all watching TV a lot and we get to sit on the couch with them even if we fart! Which is often! They are all also on the phone constantly, which is OK because then they are very distracted, one of them will look up and say, “Hey, did anyone feed the dogs?” and no one knows the answer and so we get fed again!

March 16
Two walks today! Unprecedented. We wish MDW wouldn’t watch the news so much; it seems to make him upset.

March 17
Life continues to be amazing. The Middle One came home, which is great because she leaves her suitcases open on the floor forever and they are full of very soft clothes so we can sleep there lots. She also leaves wrappers and bowls of cereal around and often they are half full. Bonus food! Waiting for First of Litter because we can hear his voice a lot through those shiny things they carry around, but so far nothing. It is OK, though. We are mostly all together and it is the best.

March 19
Wow, are we getting in shape. Suddenly everyone wants to walk us. We are going to be super-cut by summer, and the party scene outside is on. I had no idea there were so many of us in this neighborhood. Collies and sheepdogs and Yorkies and lots of goldens — we just met an Irish wolfhound; where has she been hiding? And even when we’re not walking, the others are right by our front door, which means lots of cool barking.

With so many film, art, music and design critics unable to cover their genre of choice, everyone has suddenly discovered TV.

March 20
We may have to cut down on the barking. On top of all the new dogs, the number of delivery guys is off the chain. Seriously. Also, MDW is yelling. In fact, things are getting a little tense in general. Something about long lines at the grocery store. “Hoarders” are apparently a bad thing. Silver lining: “Plenty of table scraps in case the dog food runs out.” Wait, what?

March 22
What is this thing called Zoom anyway? HEDW and MO keep talking into screens all the time and getting mad at us when we want to come see them. Pretty rich considering all those previous demands for cuddles. At one point, we got kicked off the bed because, apparently, we were snoring too loud and the screen could hear us and it was “embarrassing.” If we kicked the humans off the bed when they snored too loud that is all we would be doing all night.

March 24
So many walks. Seriously, can these people not walk by themselves, ever? Many of the dogs we meet are feeling the same — exhausted. Mercifully, it rained pretty hard this afternoon, but that means more TV and more cuddles. Sometimes it seems like the humans forget we are not toys, we are real and real things do not want to be touched 24/7. You can only have your belly scratched so many times a day before it begins to feel, well, invasive. Also MO keeps creeping up on us to take our picture, but only after she rearranges our pillows and blankets to make us look “cute.” I thought we were always pretty cute, but still she needs to “edit” our pictures. Which is not very self-esteem-building; we didn’t ask to have our pictures taken.

Even as people are told to stay home, many in Southern California seek out public spaces — beaches, hiking trails, sidewalks, parks — for relief.

March 26
Are they honestly never going to leave this house again? Do they think we live to keep them company? I refuse to go for another walk; don’t they know you need a rest day once in a while? How are the lines at the grocery store because we are sick of scraps and want our dog food again. And stop touching us! OK, you can touch us sometimes because we do still love you the best, but there are four of you and two of us, so a little social awareness would be helpful.

March 27
Where are the damn suitcases?


Abby Nieto enjoys time with her dog, Lola, at Burbank’s Five Points park.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Dog in a basket: Seen on The Strand in Hermosa Beach on Thursday before L.A. County beaches were closed.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Dog being walked along Chandler bikeway
Dog walking along the Chandler bikeway in Burbank on Wednesday, March 25.
(Kent Nishimura/Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)
Gloves and a mask have started to become standard gear for dogwalkers, as seen along The Strand on Thursday in Hermosa Beach.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Lucky dog gets a ride on the Chandler bikeway in Burbank
Lucky dog gets a ride on the Chandler bikeway in Burbank on Wednesday.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)