Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Pandemic pals make isolation not-so lonely

Pet adoptions were as popular as sourdough during the pandemic's early days, but cats and dogs weren't just a passing fad.

  • Sarasota
  • Neighbors
  • Share

For better and worse, it’s been a year of solitude. 

No matter the level of social interaction, it’s likely you have lowered the amount of people you see day to day. Masks and awareness of personal space are now top of mind. 

To deal with the isolation, pets have taken center stage. We’ve spoken to a few about their new animal friends. 

Joni Kirby makes sure to have a snack time for Thunder and Lightning.
Joni Kirby makes sure to have a snack time for Thunder and Lightning.

Joni Kirby, Thunder and Lightning 

Joni Kirby has been taking the pandemic seriously. The recently-retired 63-year-old has been diligently self-isolating since the shutdown in March, even going so far as having her groceries delivered. Kirby recently had shingles, which battered her immune system. Her family isn’t nearby, and while she occasionally talks to neighbors from a distance, she’s mostly on her own.

Kirby has been lonely and in the search of some companionship.

She’s found it with Thunder and Lightning, a pair of kitten siblings she adopted in mid-September. She was planning on just picking up Thunder, a gray cat, but when she learned there was a white-and-black sister cat, she had to have them both. 

It’s been an adventure getting used to the two new personalities, to say the least. She says Thunder is shy and quiet, while Lightning more than lives up to her name by zooming all over the house. She sets time for play and naps for the two kittens, and has been glad to see them get used to her new home.Watching them learn to trust her more has been affirming. 

“We're learning each other's routines, they're just good company,” Kirby said. “I've always liked animals better than people.”

Patti Garrettson and Milo

59-year old Patti Garrettson loves her dog Brutus, but there have been complications. The large dog has anxiety coupled with a difficulty in warm weather, which makes it tough for Garrettson and her husband Jimmy to travel and leave the house. She felt he could use a partner, and she’d always felt good about having a smaller dog in the house. 

Garrettson, a North Port resident, searched and searched until she found Milo, an albino chihuahua mix at the Humane Society of Sarasota County in April. Garrettson said she felt he would be a good fit, and that was confirmed when she went to the shelter and her new dog jumped up into the truck and into her lap to leave. 

The two have been inseparable since. Milo has beds around the house, follows Garrettson wherever she goes.

Now Garrettson can leave with no trouble — both her dogs are calm. 

“I smile all the time, I sing songs to Milo,” she said. “I tell him, ‘You’re going to be a star’.”

Logan has stayed close to Raegan Higgens since his adoption.
Logan has stayed close to Raegan Higgens since his adoption.

Raegan and Logan

Raegan Higgins had only been driving her first car for half a year when she was T-boned by a driver at 60 miles an hour last April. Right when it happened, she knew something was broken. 

“I got put down on the ground after I was carried out of the car,” Higgins said. “It was instant pain right in my pelvis. And I was like, ‘Well that’s broken.”

Her pelvis was fractured in two places, which required two days in the hospital and weeks of bed rest. Her mother Jean Jacobs, furloughed at the time, would sometimes need to wash her, eventually progressing to Higgins having to move with a cane and walker. The accident and recovery were understandably hard for Higgins, who prides herself on being active with sports and hiking.

She started looking for ways to feel better during her time stuck in bed and found Logan the cat on the Humane Society website. She was instantly taken with his black-and-white face patterns and wanted to adopt, but Jacobs was less enthused with the idea of adding another animal to her family’s stable of dogs, cats and reptiles. Eventually, though, she came around. 

“I said ‘Mom, I’m stuck in bed, can we please get a cat?’” Higgins said. “I know we already have one, but look at this guy.’”

Using a walker, Higgins left her house for the first time since her accident to meet Logan. She could quickly tell he was a shy, skittish animal — he was shaking like a leaf and was clinging to his foster mother for dear life. He took to Higgins right away, though. 

“We knew Logan was for her because when she finally took him, he just put his arms around her neck and hugged her,” Jaocbs said. 

He’s barely left her side since. Though she’s fully recovered, Logan will only sleep next to — or on top of — Higgins and follows her around the house. Sometimes he only eats if she puts the food down and directly tells him to. It’s not quite like any bond Higgins or Jacobs have seen before.  

 “It was good that she was bedridden because that cat would not leave anyway,” Jacobs said. “All she did was lay there and the cat laid with her. They have this connection that I’ve never seen.”



Harry Sayer

Harry Sayer is the Black Tie editor for the Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and previously worked Black Tie for the Observer newspaper in Winter Park and Maitland. You can catch him at one of Sarasota's fundraisers and shindigs.

Related Articles