One’s company, two’s a crowd, three’s a party. Dogs are no exception.
A fourth-year veterinary student and dog mom to Xena the Collie, Natasha is no stranger to the comfort and company that animals can provide. Because of the pandemic, Natasha hasn’t seen her family for the entire past year and even spent the holidays only in the company of canines. “It was really hard, but Xena and I—we’re like a unit. We’re our own family together in Massachusetts,” she said.
But in timing that can only be described as serendipitous, Natasha decided to extend her heart and home to two foster dogs: a pair of sick and malnourished Collies rescued from a hoarding situation in upstate New York in February of 2020. “The greeting when I came home was nuts,” Natasha recalls of when she’d return from school, just before her classes switched over to online. “All three dogs would come running over to the baby gate. They were just a hoot—they were a party in themselves.”
After the pandemic shut down the majority of the country and Natasha’s clinical classes migrated to Zoom instead of the classroom, she found herself isolated and with plenty of time to spend with her dogs—all three of them. “It was a lot of training and it was craziness, but it was also a lot of companionship. So I never felt like I was alone,” she recalled. Her social distancing days were spent conditioning her new foster babies to everyday life: introducing them to vacuums and blenders, potty training, working on some resource guarding behaviors. Her daily walks turned into a one-at-a-time rotation, where Xena was perfectly comfortable with children playing nearby but the fosters would turn into flight risks, flipping their harnesses and getting fearful of the loud environment.
A very “go-with-the-flow” kind of dog, Xena didn’t mind having two new foster brothers, Archie and Reggie, introduced to her home. According to Natasha she’d sniff them, give them space, and let them be—even while being generous and mild-mannered enough to share her room with them. “She took it like a champ! It wasn’t her first time fostering a pet, so Xena was able to quickly get the hang of things in her newly shared home. Xena seemed to know that even if other dogs may come and go, she will always be a constant with Natasha and that their duo would stand strong no matter who else filtered through. “We have our own relationship and it’s taken a while to build, but it’s something that I treasure and it’s very special to us,” Natasha said, reflecting on the bond her and Xena share. As a rescue herself, Xena came to Natasha with a high prey drive and anxiety typical of a dog that had been bounced around from place to place. Her behavioral issues have been kept at bay now that she’s adjusted to life with Natasha in their comfortable forever home. “Life would be really lonely without her. I obviously love her to pieces, and she’s been really good for me.”
After nearly a year, Natasha no longer has the foster pups (and Xena has her bedroom back.) While the pandemic has certainly changed her outlook on life, Natasha feels thankful for the perspective Xena and the fosters were able to bring her. With mental health issues the pandemic, she’s grateful for the companionship and grounding the dogs were able to provide. “I was very much alone in a very large house over the holidays—and I didn’t really feel alone because I had three dogs and they were awesome and they kept me company,” Natasha said. “And so we had our own celebration. And it was great.”