Editor's Note: Times Free Press columnist Mark Kennedy is writing an occasional column, Homebound, about his family's social-distancing experiences.
In some ways, these are the true dog days.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic — like 100 years ago, in March — there was a cute video on social media of a little dog giving advice from "the four-leggeds to the two-leggeds."
The tiny dog magically spoke English, and her vocal cords sounded like they had been marinated in helium. She said it was obvious in the doggy kingdom that the four-leggeds were dealing with some unseen crisis and that maybe dogs could help.
Some of her tips to humans included searching for snacks in storm grates, chasing tennis balls when boredom strikes and refraining from sniffing your neighbors while the virus is rampant.
Solid advice. Timeless, really.
For those of us hitting a wall in the stay-at-home life, there is actually much we can learn from our house dogs, who have had years of practice fighting indoor boredom and isolation.
Our dog Boise, a 6-year-old poodle-spaniel mix, has been a little love sponge during the lockdown. He is a true snuggle puppy, and sometimes members of my family compete for his time.
His default comfort zone is the space between my knees when I sit in my recliner with my ankles crossed. It forms a little nest where he can circle, plop down and rest. If I'm not positioned correctly, he will jump in my chair and paw at my kneecaps until I rearrange myself to his liking.
Others in the family are jealous that Boise almost always chooses to sit with me, but they have recently come to the conclusion that he parks on my legs because it's a comfortable space and I leave him alone — he interprets human touch as a command to stand up and interact.
I've been watching Boise closely to see if I can copy dog behavior to survive the stay-at-home life, which is starting to make me feel pent-up and antsy.
Here are my observations.
I've noticed that all dogs, including Boise, have a four-part action plan for their daily routine: eat, sleep, work, play. Happiness for us two-leggeds may indeed involve copying the four-legged lifestyle.
* Eat. Like humans, dogs like to snack. I have yet to meet a dog that wouldn't give you the coat off his back for a half a Cheetos. Boise is an accomplished beggar. In fact, he won't eat his dog food until all hope is lost for acquiring table scraps. Then, and only then, will he go to his dry-food bowl, which he seems to think is filled with meat-flavored rocks.
The moral here is that surrounding yourselves with snacks during these homebound days is perilous. If you are not hungry at mealtime, it might be because you've been eating Pringles and Oreos all day. Solution: Don't buy cookies and chips. Or maybe treat yourself like a dog and only reward yourself with a tiny treat after you go potty.
* Sleep. Here is an open secret about the stay-at-home life: Most of us are using those hours we used to spend grooming and commuting to work as extra sleep time. Whether it's sleeping an hour later than normal in the mornings or sneaking a short afternoon nap, we are more well-rested that we have been in years.
On a normal workday, when our two boys are in school and my wife and I are at work, Boise sleeps away the day on a blanket on the couch. When we come home, he is alive, alert, joyous. Rest elevates his mood and makes his time with family more enjoyable. Humans should take note.
* Work. If you don't think a dog works, you are just not paying attention. A dog's primary job is being a good pack animal, which involves marking and protecting his property. Boise's favorite indoor spot is near a door or window where he can sound the alarm if an "intruder" comes close to our house.
He especially hates squirrels, which he chases with vigor, although I'm not sure what he'd do if he caught one.
The current situation, with people out walking constantly, has put him on a high state of alert. On our daily walks, he also meticulously marks his territory. He especially likes taunting big dogs behind fences by lifting his leg on their grass.
* Play. Here's where we humans should take note. Boise demands a daily portion of play time. That means holding his favorite toy, a stuffed hedgehog, in his mouth and whining until someone agrees to play with him.
Specifically, he wants us to toss him "Hedgy" and allow him to "head it" back to you like a soccer ball. He also likes to run in circles until he collapses.
So, too, we humans should find time to play, which can include exercise or just playing games with other members of our "pack."
So there you have it, a dog's advice for your work-at-home days: Run in circles. Have a snack. Take a nap. Do your work.
Oh, and don't sniff your neighbors.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org.