, , , , ,

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.—Joseph Heller, Catch-22

New series? Travels with Peri, International Dog of Mystery—and my pandemic therapist. Please let me know what you think!

“They’re trying to kill me.” (I was absolutely not whining.)

My husband didn’t look up from his phone. “No one is trying to kill you.”

I didn’t have to think about it to know he was wrong. (We’ve been married a long time.) “They aren’t even pretending to put their facemasks over their noses. AND they’re breathing at me.”

“They’re breathing at everyone,” he pointed out in the reasonable tone he should know by now put him at extreme risk.

“Oh, yeah. They’re shuffling along trying to kill everyone,” I agreed. “It’s like the zombie apocalypse, only with more snot and less brain-noshing.”

“It’s a pandemic.” He looked up at last. “It’s nothing personal, you know.”

“No, they’re definitely trying to infect me. Shouldn’t they be sent to jail? Or Texas?”

It wasn’t the first time he’d heard this. “I thought you were going to look for a therapist?”

He was right, of course. I’d been in lockdown with the Hub for over a year and frankly, I needed help. But so did everyone else in the world. It was Catch-22. I couldn’t get emergency therapy because it was sane to expect everyone else to be insane (and those without facemasks to be potential serial killers) during a pandemic.

Luckily, there was one therapist I could turn to, one I could always count on. The only one who would always love me with single-minded ferocity eclipsing all else (with the possible exception of anyone holding her filled bowl at food:o’clock). Being the center of my dog Peri’s world was always heady stuff, even if it was a canine universe that regularly smelled pretty ripe, regurgitated disgusting things under my dining room chair, and farted. A lot.

“You would make a great therapist,” I told her. “Can you say, ‘And what do we do when we are sad?'”

Peri put her chin on her crossed paws, tilted her head to the side, and raised one ear.

“Close enough.” I handed her a doggie biscuit. “You’re hired.”

Peri prefers positive affirmation as a cognitive behavioral therapy tool.

For the rest of the pandemic, Dr. Dog was in with all four paws, and Peri completely nailed the therapist role. She never judged, because everything I did that didn’t involve a dog bath was cause for joy and (if doggie biscuits were involved) actual ecstasy. It was an exclusive medical network with only two subscribers, so I never needed an appointment and she was always thrilled to see me. And she never, ever said our time was up for the day because, well… she couldn’t tell time.

Peri didn’t do online therapy, of course, because she was convinced any voices she couldn’t smell must belong to ghosts. And I couldn’t argue with her rates: half a biscuit at the beginning and end of each session bought her undivided attention. (Unless a total stranger came by with a tennis ball, at which point Peri would completely forget her own name and my presence in the universe. But she never took time off from our therapy to play golf or attend medical conventions.)

We shared the couch, pre-dawn walks, mutual therapy, and a pandemic. And it worked. I didn’t do jail time for assaulting serial killers anti-maskers, and she didn’t eat out of the trash can. Mostly.

Peri: And what do we do when we are sad?
Barb: Mainline Ben & Jerrys instead of yelling out car windows that anti-vaxers are serial killers?
Peri: SO much work ahead of us…