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Pandemic Lessons from Pets

redfoot tortoise
Now that is a face that would look very cute on a mask – or anywhere.

The other day I found myself complimenting – complimenting! – a stranger on her choice of masks.


In all fairness, her cloth mask was covered with cute stitched turtles. I wanted one. For a moment, I forgot.

I forgot why we are wearing masks in the first place.

It seems like so long ago and just yesterday when I first realized that my initial casual disregard for “that coronavirus thing” wasn’t going to just go away like so much media hype. Rather, it was coming. It was coming here, to my country, to my state, to my city, to my community.

It came first, and then the gloves, and then the masks, and before long I was teaching my mom how to order her groceries on Instacart.

How does life change so fast?

And so, with this pandemic, I haven’t really been able to look to mentors from my own species for guidance.

We homo sapiens are all wading through it for the first time together. No one has (as of yet anyway) risen up as an acknowledged leader – a wise teacher who has experience in such things and can light the way for the rest of us.

Luckily, I have animals. Specifically, I have Pearl, my senior “special needs” cockatiel, Malti, my six-year-old redfoot tortoise, and Bruce, my rescued 3-toed Texas box turtle.

Unlike me, they aren’t worried about coronavirus…even if perhaps they should be. Unlike me, they aren’t blessed (cursed) with an enormous prefrontal cortex which so readily switches between past-present-future that it often can’t tell the difference between the three.

Pearl, Malti and Bruce live in the moment. And when I say “the moment,” I mean the PRECISE MOMENT they are in. It is really quite marvelous and mind-boggling to witness.

They are like tiny extra-cute samurai.

Every single unfolding second gets their full and undivided attention.

No one is making any effort to multi-task. If their attention shifts, it shifts 100 percent. First it is HERE and then it is THERE.

Perhaps here and now is also the right moment to mention turtle and tortoise species predate the dinosaurs. Birds are modern dinosaurs. Birds and turtles also share a common ancestor and more than a little DNA.

In other words, each one of them has street credit in the survival department.

Species wise, all three are very much more ancient than me, and much better equipped to survive should a solar flare take out my internet and coffeemaker for good and send me into the forest to forage for caffeine and shelter (not necessarily in that order).

Multi-tasking does you no favors in the food chain o’ life.

And truly, Pearl, Malti and Bruce have taught me that I can’t weather this storm with anything less than one-pointed attention on each moment of my life right as it unfolds.

After nearly half a century of blessed inattention, every tiny choice I choose to make once again counts.

If I forget my mask, my hand sanitizer, my gloves, if I allow myself to get too run down or stressed out or worked over,  the microscopic predator that has fast-tracked to the tippy-top of the global food chain will take me down so fast…it is humbling to realize how little evolution has equipped me for a threat of this magnitude.

Pearl, Malti and Bruce remind me that I’ve only got today. Really, I’ve only got this one moment. I have always loved what Saint Francis of Assisi answered when someone asked him what he would do if it was his last day on Earth – right now, today.

He pondered carefully and answered (and I paraphrase), “Well, I would probably keep hoeing the garden, because that is what needs doing.”

I aspire to say – and do – the same.

With great  respect and love,


NOTE: Lately I have seen an uptick in incredibly rageful comments here and elsewhere. Those will be deleted without hesitation. These are difficult times and heart-closing comments do no one any good. All the rest are warmly welcomed. Peace.

Pandemic Lessons from Pets

Shannon Cutts

Freelance writer. Author. Cockatiel, redfoot tortoise & box turtle mama.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). Pandemic Lessons from Pets. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jun 2020
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