Lately, the news feels like a funeral for normalcy. We watch in hopes of good news and positive developments that might restore our lives to their former humble glories, but the news is flooded with cause for concern. Between the pandemic madness and the recent Nova Scotia shooting, I don’t blame my grandma for tearing up every time she turns on the TV.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends and family close to me, both virtually and physically, as this pandemic has rolled out and worsened beyond what any of us could anticipate. We check in with each other more often than ever before and remind each other to be grateful for our health, sanity, and liveliness each and every day. 

Some days I’m grateful it’s springtime in Toronto, where going outside poses a decent alternative to going out to the mall. Other days I’m grateful that I can still write, while others have to put their careers and hobbies on hold. Today, I’m grateful for the animals in my life: the ones who predated this bizarre dystopia, as well as the aptly dubbed “pandemic pets.”

Animal rescue groups across Canada have seen a surge in demand for pets since pandemic rules have come into effect. This includes demand for adoption, as well as fostering and “foster fails.” It makes sense—animals have been known to help with feelings of depression and loneliness long before coronavirus became a household word.

I am lucky enough to be in the life of a pandemic pet myself. She is a months-old husky puppy who’s as fascinated by ice cubes and old socks as I am with her. She appreciates what others view as compost and she loves your cooking, no matter what you’re making or how badly you mess it up. She plays hard, eats hard, and sleeps harder than any person I know. On a daily basis, she forces us to be better and observe some semblance of a routine. She entices us to wake up on time, get outside for exercise and sunshine, and watch less TV. Most days, she makes us forget coronavirus is even a thing.

Animals, like children, have an uncanny way of grounding us. They shift our perspectives and change our lives in general. Most days, it seems that few positives will come out of this pandemic madness, but as long as we can look over to the fuzzy faces and adoring smiles of our pandemic pets, we’ll know that beauty can come out of the darkest of times.

Zakiya is a writer in Toronto. Her articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, This Magazine, NOW Magazine, and J-Source, amongst others.