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In times of fear, man’s best friend might be the happiest

The path was fairly straight and no more than 10 feet wide, and as my wife and I approached another walking her dog Sunday, the woman veered left to travel another route.

Which was surprising given there wasn’t one.

Social distancing. It’s more a thing than Netflix overload right now.

Basketball rims have been removed from outside courts. Same with tennis nets. Folks are curling jugs of milk in their living rooms instead of barbells at the gym.

Thank goodness for old school pushups, situps and walls in which to lower elbows as we’re strengthening those triceps … or tipping a few cold ones.

Either way, just keep things at a 90 degree angle.

Many of our routine exercise patterns have been altered or eliminated as we wait out the coronavirus, which means the happiest of all creatures might be man’s best friend.

There are pups everywhere getting more of a workout than some might have ever experienced, a historic level of panting throughout the valley.

We have a Shih Tzu and Papillon. The last time they were this happy, someone (me) dropped a bag of carrots in the kitchen and didn’t realize it.

Our daily strolls have seemingly brought a robust sense of community. There is nothing more powerful than being connected to others.

Progress. Prosperity. Seeking a bigger purpose. All that sort of good stuff.

But are all the nods and smiles and waves being offered more a sign of togetherness or fear?

People exercise at Hualapai Canyon hiking area in Las Vegas Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (K.M. Can ...
People exercise at Hualapai Canyon hiking area in Las Vegas Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

We as a city responded to the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting with anger and sorrow and a sense of loyalty and pride that only such a horrific moment can generate.

Those bullets led to 58 deaths and in turn created a resolve in the face of tragedy.

It made us stronger.

This is different. This is more anxiety and nervousness mixed with terror.

We’re supposed to fear the unknown. The worst kind of enemy is one we can’t see coming. Or, in the case of the coronavirus, not knowing who among us it will find next.

I have never engaged while exercising — albeit at a minimum of 6 feet away — with others like the past several weeks. Never bothered to even glance sideways at another during a run. Music on. Focus straight ahead. All about reaching personal goals or passing out, whichever comes first.

I wave and nod a lot more now. Smile at everyone, even those hidden behind masks. I want to believe such gestures are a sign of our consciousness being more kind and considerate in this time.

But we might just be scared to death of one another.

Return to normal?

“Basically, we act as if everyone is a carrier of (the virus), and that creates a certain fear as we (exercise),” said Dr. Michael Ian Borer, associate professor of sociology at UNLV. “In one way, people might think, ‘Hey, we’re together in this.’ But there is a strange paradox of living in fear that we didn’t have three weeks ago. We are living in strange times.

Lisa Lobue and her dog Kendal pass Lois Widell, all of Las Vegas at Hualapai Canyon hiking area ...
Lisa Lobue and her dog Kendal pass Lois Widell, all of Las Vegas at Hualapai Canyon hiking area in Las Vegas Wednesday, April 1, 2020. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto

“We co-mingle in certain spaces (outside) without really engaging with each other. Even things that were totally routine before like exchanging money is different. It doesn’t matter what race, ethnicity or gender you are — we see everyone as a threat. And that’s problematic.”

But will such worry end when life begins to seem normal again?

When returning to the society we knew before.

Probably not at first. Habits are what keep us going, even ones we want to break. I can’t imagine a full T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights or eventually Allegiant Stadium for the Raiders in which we immediately embrace the idea of being among large crowds, never mind high-fiving the stranger next to us.

This all won’t end when it ends.

“Eventually, we will bounce back, but it will take a long time,” Borer said. “There will be residual effects. We are in a time that is crumbling the basic fabric of what makes us social.”

For now, remember to keep waving and nodding and smiling, no matter the reason.

Be it fear or kindness or both.

Togetherness comes in different forms. And until those rims and nets go back up, until gyms open their doors, this is what we have.

Meaning, a lot of happy dogs.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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