A writer adopts a pitbull: “As soon as the dog saw him in the waiting room, she curled up in his lap.”

From a Wall Street Journal series “Life in Quarantine”; this was written by Cyrus Dunham, a writer in Los Angeles:

It was supposed to be a temporary relationship. Cyrus Dunham planned to briefly foster Bernice, a six-year-old pitbull with clipped ears and a chronic skin condition who’d been rescued from a kill shelter.

The coronavirus pandemic intervened to create a permanent bond.

Since a childhood surrounded by cats, dogs, lizards and rabbits, the 28-year-old Los Angeles writer had valued animal companionship, gravitating toward the idea of owning a pitbull.

But with his career flourishing following the release of a 2019 memoir, he was nervous about making such a commitment. He traveled frequently—for work, to visit friends and relatives and as an organizer with a group that advocates on behalf of women in California’s prison system.

Several friends suggested fostering as a commitment-free trial run. The applications he submitted to canine-rescue groups listed only a few specifications.

“I didn’t care what the dog looked like,” he recalls. “I just wanted an older, sweet, gentle dog.”

In early March, Wags & Walks called to offer Bernice, who had remained unadopted for six to seven months—longer than any other animal then in its care. The pitbull’s muscled body was punctuated by bald patches and scars. As soon as the dog saw Mr. Dunham in the waiting room, she curled up in his lap and started snoring.

“I was immediately, extremely in love,” he recalls. But he was still unsure about taking on the responsibility of permanent dog ownership. After a one-day trip out of town for work, he returned to L.A. and brought Bernice home, still unsure how long she would remain there.

Three days later, circumstances made up Mr. Dunham’s mind for him. A friend he’d recently seen tested positive for Covid-19, and Mr. Dunham’s doctor said he and his partner would need to self-isolate. The following day, Wags & Walks notified him that it was closing its adoption center until further notice, extending all foster arrangements. There was no way to return Bernice, even if he wanted to.

Mr. Dunham and his partner, Rosie Stockton, 30, were soon experiencing what they believed were moderate Covid-19 symptoms though neither of them was ever tested.

The dog, which slept upward of 20 hours a day, proved an ideal companion while recovering from an illness.

“The only thing I’ve been able to do is garden,” Mr. Dunham says. “She follows me around and sniffs at plants, then falls asleep in the mulch.”

Spending time with Bernice has helped Mr. Dunham reconnect with some basics.

“Being with this extremely gentle, sleeping creature, whose pace is so slow, who has two activities—gaze at birds or nap—has been so grounding,” he says.

Mr. Dunham and Ms. Stockton gave Bernice a surname: Anders, a play on the former Democratic presidential hopeful’s name.

At the beginning of April, less than a month after meeting Bernice, Mr. Dunham began filling out paperwork to adopt her permanently. “You didn’t get the nomination,” the couple told the dog, now known as Bernice Anders. “But you can stay here.”

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