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Young Observers: A Tribute to Our Furry Heroes

Friday, March 13, 2020. This was the last time I set foot inside a classroom. When I left school that day I had no idea that I wouldn’t be making trips to school  for a year and that I would be mostly confined at home.  Except for outdoor nature hikes, I have not been to any store or restaurant over the past year. I wasn’t prepared for this. It has been a tough year. I know many kids out there feel the same. While mental health is a major concern for people of all ages during the pandemic, children and teens are considered more vulnerable.  The overwhelming negative emotions, whether from the loss of a loved one to the virus or because of the lack of social interaction, drive many young people to depression and even to take their lives. For some of us, our mental health would not be as good as it is now without the help of our pets, and we want to pay tribute to them as we round up one year of staying home due to COVID-19.

I am an only child and I was longing for a pet. My parents agreed to adopt one provided it would be easy to take care of. After looking through some options, I decided to get a bunny. It is non-verbal so I don’t have to worry about unwanted barks. Its poop is like a tiny ball—round, dry, and not smelly. It likes peeing in a designated litter box that I can just clean up every day. It feeds mainly on hay, water, and some fruits and vegetables, which are readily available in the stores. I was ready to bring home a bunny when I saw the news on TV about the 300 bunnies rescued by the Orange County (OC) Animal Care from a home in Fullerton in January last year.  All of them were up for adoption at only $14 each and it felt like one of those was meant for me. By the time I made it to the animal shelter in Tustin, they only had a few left and a number of kids were waiting in line to pick up their bunnies which meant that they sold fast, within weeks of being brought in. I felt lucky I got my pets right before the lockdown or I don’t know how I would have survived this difficult time. I decided to adopt two bunnies, Nori and Silver, since they would be able to keep each other company during the time I was not with them. They are both male Hotot rabbits, one dwarf and the other regular, but weighed almost the same at about 3 lbs. each. They are two years-old and they live up to ten. At first they acted really cold and distant, which made it stressful to care for them. Nevertheless, I continued to deal with them gently and showered them with love. It took us about four weeks to gain each other’s trust. Since then, Nori, Silver, and I have been building wonderful memories together.

I gifted my bunnies their own “crib,” which is a soft, fluffy, and furry bean bag. I usually put it on the couch so that my bunnies and I are within eye-level of each other and can interact easily. Their crib must be so cozy it makes them doze off to sleep quickly.  When they wake up from their nap, they will lick my hand. This is their way of showing trust and affection. I wanted to bring my bunnies out on a walk, but since they are unable to follow their owners like dogs can, I put them in a made-up bunny stroller. With this, Nori and Silver are able to enjoy our daily afternoon walks.  On weekends, they join us on trips to the mountains or the beach. Recently, they earned a spot at the dinner table with their plate of veggies, to join my family on Friday nights for dinner. They officially made it to the family picture last Christmas.

Bunnies Nori and Silver joining my family on Friday nights for dinner, taking a nap in their crib, and going for a walk in their stroller.

I know having a pet is fun, but I never realized the magnitude of their role in keeping my spirits up during the entire year.  As soon as I wake up, I look forward to checking on them.  When I get stressed, playing with them and cuddling them calms my nerves.  I used to feel lonely with no one to play with at home when my parents were busy with work but now I feel like I have two little brothers I can count on. I love taking care of them and I feel happy in the love we share.

As I reflect on the wonderful role my bunnies have in my life, I realize that they have given me a sense of purpose because they make me feel obligated to always be there for them as they are for me. This helps me choose to live another day with motivation. Overall, having an animal best friend by my side keeps me going. But, do not just take my word for it. Read more from the experiences of other Young Observers with their pets on this page.

Mochi, my family’s Dutch Hotot (a breed of rabbit), has been a constant relief in the midst of this unprecedented time. We adopted her in January of last year because we’ve never had a pet before. We knew little about taking care of a rabbit, and we learned a lot about them through taking care of our own. And little did we know that the year would bring huge changes. Even now, Mochi is a source of happiness and laughter (and sometimes annoyance). Her funny antics and adorableness bring light to our house, and I’m glad we have her during this pandemic.

Katie and Mochi.

It was like a miracle that we got Mochi, our bunny, right before the stay-at-home order. We managed to convince our parents to get a pet even though it wouldn’t be a dog. Mochi was shy and scared in the beginning, but throughout the past months of living together, she has opened up and become friendlier. We found that she craves  apple peels and raisins, and in general, food. She makes me laugh with her unintelligent brain. I’ve also learned a lot of things about rabbits from her. Here are just a few: (1) They are not that smart. (2) They stomp when they’re mad. (3) Sometimes they have lots of chins. I’m not really sure if I would have survived this pandemic without Mochi or else I would have been really bored.

Pets come in different shapes and sizes, from dogs to cats to fish and many others in between. However, they all have one thing in common—they helped us survive one year in quarantine. I think most pet owners can agree that their pets make their lives less miserable during this pandemic. The main reason they are the heroes of quarantine is their natural ability to keep us busy and entertained.  In times like this when we cannot go out that often and enjoy life like we used to, pets are perfect for sucking the boredom out of our souls. They require much love and affection to keep themselves going just like we do, and we fulfill each other’s needs.

My dog, Roscoe, is a four-year-old shih-tzu and schnauzer mix.  He is quite temperamental.  He can be very calm and friendly at times but he can also be hyper and angry when you touch something he thinks is his,  which is basically everything. When he is not outside barking at birds, he is either begging for scratches from my mom or biting blankets and pillows in our living room. He even jumps on my bed in the middle of the night. Although he can be very annoying sometimes, he is also very entertaining. He can be the subject of many hilarious moments at any given time. Like most pets, it requires a fair amount of work to take care of him. We need to regularly feed him and give him water, take him to the vet, and tidy up his living space. He can also cause a lot of damage, as I have learned from past experiences, which gives me more work to do and fills my time during quarantine.

Mateo and Roscoe.

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