Learning to Adapt

Learning to Adapt

  • Allison Hartz

What My Dogs Taught Me About Adapting During a Pandemic

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Bree Corbin


For those who know Noodle, you may have heard me say this in the past. She has taught me that adapting is the secret to life. Adapting has to occur because change is inevitable. Only now, this change isn’t felt in a small community or a family unit or a single person, but through our entire world. If there's anything constant with our world right now, it's the companionship we have with dogs – and that dogs will continue to teach us how to be better humans.

Noodle with her pink dog wheelchair on a rocky hike.

During this pandemic, we have all been experiencing change. Change that we must adapt to – and who better to teach us than our dogs. Here are three lessons I’ve learned from my dogs during our quarantine.

Lesson One: We all need a job.

We’ve heard before that a dog needs a job. We’ve all tried to provide one to our pets. For our family, Noodle’s job is to chase Frisbees and Shamus’ has self-appointed his job as escort. He will escort anyone to any room doing any task. Without a job, dogs can get restless and this is proving true for us stuck at home.

Besides the obvious financial needs, our jobs also provide us with a sense of identity and a feeling of contributing to a bigger cause than just ourselves. A dog's job is not a nine-to-five. If we could adapt our definition of a job to what our pets are teaching us, then a job can be daily physical activity, reaching out to family/friends, donating blood, or supporting local hospitals. Finding a way to contribute to your family, community, or state does not require a specialized skill.

Noodle and Shamus in matching cedar green ruffwear jackets on a hike.

Lesson Two: Sit and stay.

Memes galore on this topic already exist. How true is it, though? Our dogs are experts on waiting, sitting, and staying. Waiting for the OK to eat dinner, waiting for a daily walk, waiting for us to return home.

We are required right now to sit and stay at home. By doing this we are literally saving lives by doing nothing. Do nothing and you will save a life or more. That is not complicated, but not knowing when it will end may be.

We are told dogs have no sense of time passing. If we could adapt our mentality to match that of our pups even just for brief moments of the day, maybe we could feel less anxious about the amount of time we are needing to sit and stay.

Noodle in Float Coat trying to relax on a paddle board.

Lesson Three: Less Self Pity.

This has been our number one lesson from Noodle since we met her. She is faced with physical adversity that matches what humans often experience. The difference is, she doesn’t realize her limitations. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself. She has no self-pity.

I could say this is easier said than done for us humans, but that would be terribly inaccurate. This is impossible for humans to do. We have self-awareness and some rather complicated emotions. This pandemic is creating loss, fear, anxiety, and stress for everyone.

While these feelings are needing to occur, I propose using those feelings to fuel empathy. For some will feel the impacts far worse than others from this pandemic. Adapt our fears, loss, and pity into empathy for all humans. It is a loss for all of us. 

This change to which we must adapt is literally knitted throughout the human race. Being experienced together. Let's adapt together.

Bree and her family on a hike.

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  • Naomi Brown


    Good for you! I’ve a three-legged, toothless, small rescue mutt with a hacked off tail who is my best camping pal. She does not “know” she has only three legs! I found your story inspiring! This dog was slated for euthanasia, but blossomed into a great companion.
    Thank you for sharing your story!!

    Richmond, Texas, USA

  • JL Skiter Kowalski

    I have a 9-month old Brittany who has been diagnosed with “hip dysplasia”. I am attempting to mitigate his “Amator” issues with diet and supplement now, with evaluating “water therapy” using a “float vest”? Do you have experience with such? TYVM for any thoughts in advance.

  • Chris Hill

    One of my pups has a disability. He can walk but also uses your boots and his wheelchair. He is happier than any dog and brings happiness wherever he goes.

    He has never known another way to be. Accept who you are and be your best self.

  • maria

    My nine-year-old boxer was just today diagnosed with DM and I came across your story when I was feeling sad, and with no hope. Thank you for sharing.

  • J Linn Henline

    Very well said. I Learn from my dog and the dogs I am around everyday. Without the steadfast love, trust and companionship of my dog I would be lost during this uncertain time. Thank you for sharing your lovely family with us.

  • Bree Corbin

    Hello. There were a few people asking about Noodle’s scooter. We get ours from Walkin Wheels. The other brand that is well liked is Eddies Wheels. Hope this helps. More questions please DM me @NoodsterScootster.

  • Alisa

    Great story. Love Noodle and his escort!! So very true – Dogs are Amazing!! I had a mini poodle that had something similar to noodle and he was always happy. Indeed lessons to be learned from our babies.
    Thanks for sharing🐾

  • Leslie Allen
    Aloha and thanks for the tale (tail). Barney, Ella, Max and now Tilly (we’re foster failures!) remind me every day that there is joy and love out there and a little body wiggle and tail wag are all it takes to share it. To quote Edith Wharton, they are a heart beat at my feet.
  • Donna E. Szlosek

    Noodle and his Shamus are beautiful puppies.

    This is a wonderful story and it is so true, we could learn so much from dogs (animals). I could not (would not want to) survive without my dogs. I prefer them any day to humans.

  • Vickie pisone

    I literally have to keep reading and reading this over and over I agree with you 100& I wish you could show the world this example if f a dog named noodle in comparisons n to humans I keep reading this over and over and literally cry thanks so much for sharing this with me I love you forsharing this with me thanks and god bless please let all of us help save lives in this war we are fighting with this virus thanks a lot.

  • Katrina Johnson

    Where can I get one of those mobility carts? That is so cool!!

  • Gordon Robinson

    My Rotti/Dobbi tripod Carly, 13 year old 4 yr cancer survival, could be a drama queen but not about her missing leg. She didn’t miss it and ran, jumped and played like she did as a youngster. She passed away 2 months ago, but as much as I miss her, her spirit lives on all around me. She made the best of a bad thing and didn’t even know it was a bad thing. For her it wasn’t.

  • Ashley Raciak

    Love this! Thank you for sharing. And thanks Noodle for being such an inspiration.

  • michele paul

    I love your harnesses – have two for my Aussiedoodle BUT this incredibly beautiful dog on wheels has touched me deeply…..I lost my beloved Bichon at 17 who was paralyzed and this is so wonderful to watch AND see all the love ❤️

  • Sandra Cannon

    I love your story. The three lessons are true when one is selfless. I lost my beloved corgi a year ago to DM and dementia. She never, ever felt sorry for herself and trudged through each day like a champ – happy from sunup to after sundown. Thank you for this story. It made me remember her heart instead of mine still feeling the loss.

  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing such important lessons, these were all great reminders and also made me think a little differently during this difficult time! Well said! ❤️❤️❤️

  • Jill A Jones

    Beautiful message! Thank you

  • Kathy Wentworth

    Thank you for this fabulous and on-point message. I just adopted my foster dog and her job is to lay on top of me every chance she gets. My job is to thank her for loving me with all her heart ❤️.
    Your article made my day. 🙏

  • Katharine Edmonson

    Thank you so much for this story – it was so inspiring, and a gift at this time.
    :) Katharine

  • Ellen Ray

    Noodle seems to be a great dog and companion and I am glad she is helping you guys through this crazy time.
    You are absolutely correct that dogs (and some cats, to be fair) are really helping their humans through these lonely and frustrating times. I am sure they are especially helpful to those who are suffering the loss of another human but also helping those of us fortunate enough to not have lost someone we love but still needing unconditional love. Thanks for your story

  • Ronald G Moede

    Love this… my Dog Rasta told me to give this strong Dog kudos… great parents too.

  • De Jones

    Thank you, Allison, Noodle, and Shamus! I learn a lot from my dogs, too! They are “in the moment” most of the time. Their joy and zest for life is uplifting! Always ready for what’s happening now and next. Blessings and best wishes to you all!

  • Deborah Manning

    Thank you for an uplifting message at a time when we could all use more positive thinking. Yay dogs!

  • Mary

    Beautiful message. I have 8 wonderful dogs at home with me, surrounded by them; they are my true compass.

  • Linda Price

    Very inspiring. But I want to know where Noodle’s people got that walking rig. My Darcy could sure enjoy that. She can take a walk but it is painful. She has the Ruffwear lifting harness that I use to help her get in and out of cars, and on a walk I will even lift it a little along the way to make her walking easier.