An unexpected silver lining to COVID-19 is an unprecedented spike in pet adoptions across the globe.
More than ever before, people are turning to animal shelters and rescue organizations in search of a new family member to weather the ongoing pandemic.
For one Colorado Man named Aaron, the lockdown was only partially responsible for his decision to adopt a dog.
For the first time in years, he also had a job that allowed him to put down roots and have a lease.
“I wanted a dog forever,” Aaron said.
Now, he was finally setting out to realize his dream.
For the past few years, Aaron had been doing seasonal work, primarily as a mountaineering guide.
This meant he was rarely living in the same area for more than a few months.
His own living space was usually a tent or a shared room or home.
He wanted a dog so much, but knew this wouldn’t be a stable enough environment for a puppy.
He wanted to make sure that whenever he got a dog, he’d be living in a place for an extended amount of time so his future pet would be set up for success both mentally and physically.
At the start of the pandemic, a lot of seasonal jobs, especially guiding work, were put on hold.
Luckily, Aaron had some friends that had a room open in Golden, Colorado.
For the first time in years, Aaron had a long term lease with his name on it.
He knew this was the perfect opportunity to find himself a pup!
The Perfect BFF
He looked up the local shelter and started asking about their available dogs. Unfortunately, lots of other people had the same idea.
“It was in the middle of the pandemic and everyone wanted a dog. So, by the time I would message about a dog that looked interesting on their website, they would get back to me and be like, ‘Sorry, that dog’s actually been adopted already,’” Aaron said.
It was frustrating, but he didn’t give up. And finally, his patience and determination were rewarded.
“Eventually I got the number of one of the women working for the rescue and she told me a litter of puppies was coming down from Montana,” he recalled.
The litter of nine had been found on a farm, but not much more information was available.
Aaron speculated that the puppies were strays or the result of a working farm dog’s accidental pregnancy.
Aaron couldn’t meet his puppy-to-be in person because of safety precautions, but that didn’t stop him.
“They gave me a call and sent me some pictures,” he said. He finalized the adoption and was ecstatic as her homecoming drew closer. He couldn’t wait for the puppy, newly named Mari, to come home.
But then he received another call from the shelter– and this one didn’t bear good tidings.
A Serious Decision
The shelter staff said that, after a vet checkup, they believed Mari had ringworm.
Ringworm is a fungus that causes hair loss and skin rashes. Though it’s curable, it’s also highly contagious and can spread from dogs to humans (and vice versa).
Knowing the complications that can come from this, staff asked Aaron he still wanted to move forward with the adoption.
After serious deliberation, he said yes. He was prepared to do everything in his power to take care of Mari.
Aaron knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but he quickly made plans to protect his puppy, himself, and others.
But even these medical worries couldn’t bring down Mari’s homecoming.
“I went and picked her up and she was adorable and immediately a sweet little pup that just wanted to wag and be happy,” he said.
And a few days later, they received happy news: after further examination, vets confirmed the puppy didn’t have ringworm. She was completely healthy!
The news came just in time for another important call: Aaron’s Mom needed his help back in New York.
From his home, it would be over 2,000 miles and more than two days. Aaron knew he needed to go, but what about Mari?
Officially Part Of The Family
As it turned out, Aaron didn’t need to worry. Despite her young age, Mari took to traveling like a natural.
And when they got to his parents’ house, Mari also proved how adept she was at fitting in with the family.
“Mom’s dog is a pittie mix and she just immediately was like, ‘Alright, well this little dog is now my child. I’m going to teach you the ways of being a dog,’” Aaron laughed. “It was really adorable. She’s worked out almost better than I could have hoped for.”
It’s not just his Mom’s dog that Mari’s made friends with, though. She charms everyone she meets.
“She’s just the friendliest little thing I’ve ever met, literally every dog, every person she meets, immediately it’s full body wiggles. She just starts shaking herself because she’s so excited, goes up to them and curls into like a crescent shape, and just wants to be petted and be friendly,” he said.
Even when the mailman comes or a squirrel crosses into her yard, Mari is nothing but excited to see them.
Mari doesn’t just love meeting new people, though.
She and Aaron try to stay as active as possible, though they’ve had to make some adjustments to stay safe.
Looking Forward To Forever
Aaron’s always had an active life, but that’s changed slightly in the past year.
“Since it’s been, you know, plague times, I haven’t been going out as much as I normally would,” he joked.
Often, they make do with the backyard and neighborhood walks. But there are still some less busy spots that Aaron loves to visit around the city.
“I’ve taken her on a lot of hikes, we did a few little winter-y summits, we did do one trip to Indian Creek in late November, which was nice,” he said. “We went to all the less-traveled cliffs with her and she enjoyed running around the dessert too.”
They’ve also made three more trips up to New York, which Mari continued to handle with enthusiasm and excitement.
When hikes and car rides are out of the question, Mari satisfies herself with learning new tricks and making more friends.
She’s learned most of the basic commands and a few “fun ones,” though she still doesn’t quite understand fetch.
But that doesn’t stop her– instead, she just has fun chasing around her friends who are playing fetch.
“She’s smart, super friendly, and just wants to be friends with everyone she meets. So it’s worked out pretty perfectly,” Aaron said.
Mari may be one of many ‘pandemic puppies,’ but to Aaron she’s completely unique.