In January, just 10 weeks before the world changed, my husband and I made a life-changing decision. Even though we already had a boisterous, loud and lovable dog in our lives, we stumbled into a 2-year-old Toy Fox Terrier rescue. We think she was 2 … we weren’t really sure.

We first met the little girl on New Year’s Eve. We left her for 48 hours to think long and hard. But I knew.

She was my baby. My little 6-pound peanut. My little Penny. She came home on Jan. 2.

I didn’t know at the time, but we were so fortunate at the timing of the adoption. As it turned out, starting March 11 when both my husband and I started to work at home, our bonding with Penny has been unique and wonderful. And we were able to more deeply help Riley, the Toy Fox Terrier/Chihuahua mix, accept and learn to play and interact with the much smaller bundle of nervous energy that was Penny.

The two of them are best buddies now. Sisters, really. They play and wrestle and steal chewies and balls from each other. Both sleep with us in our bed. Life is good.

As it turns out, we were beyond lucky. Like many other shortages these days, apparently adoptable rescues are in short supply. According to NPR, starting in mid-March, shelters around the country did a wholesale plea for fostering. Like all other businesses, shelters were being temporarily closed. They needed help. Suddenly shelters were empty. That’s good, right?

Add adoptable dogs and cats to the list of pandemic shortages. Masks. Toilet paper. Hand sanitizer. Bikes. Backyard pools. And not rescues.

I first heard about the shortage from my sister who lives in Baltimore. She lost her beloved dog Ginger to cancer in 2019 (remember that year?). She decided to wait until the first anniversary of the death in February 2020 to open her home to another rescue. As they say, the best-laid plans …

Doing a little research into the shortage, I learned that it just wasn’t a matter of people going into adoption overdrive. There is a “national dog supply chain” for rescue dogs that was interrupted. Again, going back to the NPR story, published in April, Matthew Bershadker of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals pointed out that, normally, Southern states like Texas, Mississippi, Georgia and Florida have more dogs than they can handle. “So shelters and humane societies have developed a network of animal transports — sending vans filled with dogs to high-demand areas in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.”

He said that about 45,000 animals are transported from the South to the North every year. When the pandemic hit, much of that transport network shut down along with the rest of the economy.

The worry now is that as states reopen — a process as painful as could have been predicted — there will be a “surge of animals back into the system,” according to NPR.

There’s no way to predict what the next few months (or years) will bring, but I think we can be pretty sure that puppies, dogs, kittens and cats will soon be filling up shelters again. So while I know my sister is frustrated right now, I think this could be an example of being tested again to see how much patience we can muster.

Penny was our wiggling, licking, timid, sometimes afraid, sometimes fearless lifeline these past few months. She is our silver lining.

Pretty Penny. Thank you.

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