Winnie Time

In late May our backyard neighbors adopted a two-month old lab puppy. They sent a text announcing her arrival and within minutes my husband and I were standing by our shared fence, waiting to hold the snow-white rolls of fur and floppy ears. They named her Winnie.

As the summer months progressed, Winnie would run to the fence to greet us and we could measure her growth by how far over the fence we had to reach to pet her. On days my husband or I got some over-the-fence puppy love, we would tease each other about the amount of “Winnie time” we got.

As summer drew to a close I blurted out an offer: I volunteered to puppysit Winnie when our neighbors, who are both elementary school teachers, had to go back to school. I had less freelance work than I had in years and I couldn’t bear the thought of Winnie locked inside a kennel all day while 100 yards away I was wasting idle hours doomscrolling.

In late August I began watching Winnie four days per week. That first day Winnie and our dog played for hours and she licked my face so often that by the end of the day my face was raw. As days became weeks, we found a routine that balanced time for freelance work and lots of play. I taught her to shake. We took long walks through the neighborhood.

Every day Winnie did something that made us laugh, and finding something to laugh about during a pandemic felt like striking gold. Her fearlessness knew no end: she would steal bones right out of the mouth of our 110-pound lab or she would launch herself into his tank-like body to get him to play. In quieter moments she would curl around my feet and nap while I worked on my laptop. The best part about watching her? For moments—sometimes hours at a time—I could pretend all was right with the world.

Bette(r) Days celebrates the things that did not suck in 2020. Each day in December, we’ll be posting about the highlights of our collective garbage fire of a year, type-related or not.