My newest rescue dog arrived in mid August.

Maddie, 11, has taken over the job of making sure that we never miss a meal at our house.

She initially was rather quiet and reserved in her demeanor. Easy going. A sweet girl.

And then she came out of her shell.

She is still sweet and easy-going except when it comes to dinner. Or breakfast. Or treats.

She gets everyone up in the morning when she thinks it’s time. Sometimes it really is time. Sometimes it is a bit early, (Switching from daylight savings time was a real challenge.) In any case, the dogs go outside when Maddie thinks it’s time and then I either feed them or go back to bed after saying what has to be the most dreaded phrase in a dog’s vocabulary, “It’s not time yet.”

Eventually breakfast arrives. From then on the day moves smoothly until about an hour and a half before dinnertime. That’s when Maddie begins to tell me that although it may not be quite time yet, dinnertime is fast approaching and I should be ready. She does this by barking at me, and she’s clearly trying to convey some sort of a message. We go through several rounds of this, each one concluded with “Not. Time. Yet.” And finally dinnertime comes.

Before we settle down for the night there’s one more ritual. I’ve learned over the years that no dog ever forgets being given a treat and immediately clocks it into the dog schedule. So the only treat the current dogs generally get is just before bed when they’ve gone out for the last time. And yes, sometimes Maddie has tried to trick me into letting them out quite early in order to receive a treat, only to ask to go out a few hours later in the hope of getting a second treat. Maddie wasn’t born yesterday, but, then, neither was I.

Dogs are, as I’ve learned, creatures of habit and ritual. We are too. What makes the holidays so difficult in this time of pandemic is that our rituals and traditions have been stripped from us. Zoom and the like are certainly adequate ways to connect, but we all know it isn’t the same. Hard to imagine how decorating Christmas cookies with the grandkids via Zoom could ever replace the in-person experience with sprinkles covering the floor and garish icing smeared everywhere. It’s difficult to forgo gathering with church members and singing hymns and carols when this is something you traditionally do. Sad to have a family holiday dinner with only a few gathered around the table.

I received a Facebook photo a few weeks ago from a friend’s husband of my friend seated at the Thanksgiving table carefully laid with her best sterling silver and china. In the center was the traditional turkey and a number of side dishes. Across the table was the lone place setting for her husband. Fall flowers completed the scene. It was both the saddest and the bravest photo I’ve seen lately.

For most of us, this holiday is pretty much guaranteed to involve both sadness and bravery. I’ve gone through that mental exercise myself: How do you celebrate when you can’t or shouldn’t celebrate? Which of your traditions must you forgo because there’s no choice? Which will you eliminate because you want to keep yourself and your loved ones safe?

With luck, we will be back to our usual routines and traditions one of these days. But, as I tell Maddie, it’s not time yet. And, as Maddie knows, the time will eventually come if you’re patient.


Note: Early in the summer I wrote  a column about Lee-Lou, my little blind rescue dog. Some readers have asked for an update.

As it turns out, little Lee is another tragedy of 2020.

During the July 4 weekend, Lee started crying out in the night. I thought she might have arthritis since she was a senior dog. When the weekend ended I took her to the vet and discovered she had tumors in her lungs, one of which was pressing on her heart and likely causing considerable pain. I was told there were no alternatives and the most compassionate thing I could do for Lee was to put her to sleep. So on July 6, I said goodbye to little Lee and then held her through the end. She is missed.

Martinek can be reached at

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