Beagle alert! Pet encounters were an important part of Jennifer Bardsley’s Girl Scout experience. Now that the meetings are over Zoom, pet interactions — as well as meaningful side conversations—are gone. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Beagle alert! Pet encounters were an important part of Jennifer Bardsley’s Girl Scout experience. Now that the meetings are over Zoom, pet interactions — as well as meaningful side conversations—are gone. (Jennifer Bardsley)

A tale of two beagles illustrates another pandemic loss

In cyberspace Scout meetings, kids can’t interact in a spontaneous way — like brag about their dogs.

When I was little, I had a beagle named Lucy with so much energy that she’d pull the leash whenever I walked her, and race around the living room like a speed demon.

The daughter of my Girl Scout leader also had a beagle, only her beagle — Bridget — was much older. During Brownie meetings, gray-haired Bridget would amble into the center of the group and fall asleep next to us, loudly snoring while we worked on badges.

To add an extra layer of complexity, my friend and I both had the same name: Jenny W. We were friends, but not best friends; competitors, but not frenemies. Jenny W. was the smartest Jennifer I knew, and she may have said the same thing about me. She also had the best back yard, because her dad had built her a playhouse, a treehouse and a rope swing.

“My beagle is so much faster than your beagle,” I would brag to Jenny W. I realize how dumb this makes me sound, but I was 6 years old, so give me a break. OK, make that 7 or possibly 8. In the 1980s, Brownies covered first, second and third grade.

“Lucy is not faster than Bridget,” Jenny W. used to say. “When you leave, Bridget tears around the yard so fast that she’s even faster than Lucy.”

At the time, I assumed that Jenny W. was flat-out lying. There was no way Bridget could run as fast as Lucy. But now that I have an elderly poodle named Merlin who occasionally succumbs to “the zoomies,” I recognize that Jenny W. was probably telling the truth. Bridget might have run a little bit when she felt like it after her long naps.

Why does any of this matter? To me, as a Girl Scout leader, it illustrates another level of loss the pandemic has caused.

Every Monday night when my Girl Scout troop meets over Zoom, we do badge work and converse across cyberspace. Our Zoom meetings are a safe environment where nobody gets sick. That’s great, except when it isn’t.

There’s no nit-picky chatter, no besting or boasting. The side conversations are gone. Merlin never wanders into the middle of the group and randomly licks someone. I miss that. I miss all of it. Children everywhere are losing the opportunity to bounce off each other and grow. I 100% support putting safety first, but it also makes me sad.

Somewhere out in the universe, Jenny W. is dealing with the pandemic, too. And I want to tell her — I really want to tell her — when nobody’s around, Merlin runs around the house like a maniac. See? I still have the fastest dog.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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