Finding Peace; Pets in the Pandemic

With mental health on a steady decline over the past few months for most Mavericks, many are going out of their way to get a new pet while adding joy to their holiday season.


Photo graphic by Ty Rains

Sara Lilly’s miniature dachshund Portillo (Left), Xander Fenolgio’s pitbull Riker (Middle), and Madeline McFall’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Daphne (Right) were all adopted in the past six months during the Coronavirus pandemic. These little guys have kept their owners happy through even the toughest of times recently.

Ty Rains, Bullseye Web Editor and Reporter

With the full switch to remote nearly five weeks ago, all students and teachers are being cooped up inside their houses until January 4, when the district will return back to the Hybrid model to kick off 2021.

Unable to see anyone other than their family, it creates an immense amount of isolation for both students and teachers alike. Some, however, have found a way to keep themselves company at home by adopting a new pet and adding an animal to their family.

Sara Lilly prepares for her after-work nap with her miniature dachshund Tilly. Lilly is a a second year math teacher at Maize South after also teaching in the Kansas City-Metro area. Photo courtesy of Sara Lilly.

Being a teacher during the pandemic can seem quite isolating when you don’t get to see your students and coworkers in person. However, math teacher Sara Lilly found a way to cure that isolation; a miniature dachshund named Portillo.

“My husband and I have been wanting a dog for a while now and since we aren’t doing much outside of the house these days it seemed like a perfect time to do it,” said Lilly. “We brought Miniature Dachshund puppy (some people call them wiener dogs) named Portillo after my favorite restaurant in Chicago home about the same time that we made the switch to full remote learning so It has been awesome to be at home with her so much. Spending so much time at home can get you in a bit of a funk, and since getting her I have been happier. It’s so nice to have someone home with me all day long while I work (even if it’s just a dog). Teaching remotely can be isolating, but bringing Tilly home has given me a companion and a lot more things to do on a daily basis.”

Students face a similar isolation while being forced to computer screens for nearly four to six hours a week. They aren’t allowed to be back in school with their friends and teachers for the much needed interaction and social portion of the school experience. For some students like sophomore Xander Fenoglio, his parents are at work a majority of the day, creating even more isolation, but his dog Riker keeps him company during his time in remote school.

“We got a dog this summer that we named Ríker cause my parents like naming dogs after Start Trek captains,” said Fenoglio. “He’s a pretty good dog so he makes us happy, but he doesn’t do much cause he’s not a very active dog.”

Posing for a photo in front of her newly decorated Christmas tree, second year Maize South teacher Madeline McFall holds her new dog Daphne to remember her first Christmas with the McFalls. Photo courtesy of Madeline McFall.

Pets are enjoying themselves a whole lot more with their owners at home way more than usual. Science teacher Madeline McFall had planned to get a second dog to keep her original dog company while she was at work. When the school switched to remote, she decided it would be the perfect time so she could distract herself from the madness of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This April, I got a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and named her Daphne after the character from Scooby Doo,” McFall explained. “I chose Daphne because she was my favorite character. I already have the same type of dog, a 2 year old named Lincoln, and I wanted him to have a friend for when I eventually went back to in-person teaching,” McFall said. “When everything started shutting down and I knew school wouldn’t be open again until the fall, so I thought it was the perfect time and a great distraction to get another puppy. She is definitely a lot of work but having the responsibility of training her and setting routines made not being able to see friends and family a little bit better.”

Staying in your house all day grading assignments and doing Zoom calls can really drain the energy out of you. After a long day of computer screens and virtual work, Lilly knows a much needed snooze with little Tilly is exactly what she needs to finish her day.

“Tilly is a 3-month old puppy, she has 2 modes: absolutely wild and very sleepy. There is no in between,” said Lilly. “When she’s energetic we love to play fetch and run around the back yard. She is still very little so she’s getting used to being on a leash and going on walks. She’s only about 4 pounds so she’s scared of virtually everything that is bigger than her. She also loves to nap and we all love to snuggle with her. Napping with her has to be my favorite activity.”