By Steve White
contributing writer 

Remaining hopeful

Life with Pepe


June 19, 2021

Jack Sann


Life with Pepe during this ongoing pandemic has given both Pepe and I a lot of time with not much to do. I often spend my COVID sheltering-in-place mornings with Pepe the Dog Warmer, and a blanket on my lap, sipping coffee while reviewing the news on the Internet. I scan the highlights, occasionally clicking on something that may be new news. Hope springs eternal for something new during these COVID days.

Recently my thoughts were of us older ones as I review the morning news. We are the pre-Baby Boomer generation that are old enough to remember some of the early days of vaccinations. Specifically for me that was the Salk vaccination for polio. I have vague recollections of those days. I remember one of my grade school classmates being a victim of polio. I can well recall standing in line, with my younger brother behind me, in a hallway in the school waiting for a lady to give us a jab. I don't recall the shot, and I now understand that two shots were required. I know two victims from polio, my generation, that are alive and doing fairly well after living through the horror of the iron lung. 

I also recall the small pox vaccination. There was some pain with that one as it was not a jab; it was a multi-pronged thing that left a huge scar. That vaccination was repeated in the US Navy boot camp. I told the corpsman giving me the vaccination that I already had been through that and had the scar as proof. He said this was required just in case. Thanks to those early vaccines, the small pox virus has been eliminated in the world and polio infections are very rare.

I am a big proponent for vaccinations. Working in wastewater treatment plants as a treatment plant operator, I was aware that every bug known to man was in my touching and breathing environment. Gloves, glasses and a mask gave some protection from the raw sewage that my work required that I handle everyday! I used the same doctor for all my shots. We both kept a detailed record of every vaccination; always on the alert for a new vaccine to protect me from the invisible unknown. The Hepatitis alphabet is still a big concern. There are vaccines that give some protection from most, but not all, of them.

My employer often commented that the wastewater operators had the most sick time on the books. I don't ever recall calling in sick. Sick leave gave me an excuse for a paid day off for a dental appointment or a routine doctor visit. Sure, there were some days when I didn't feel so good. A couple of aspirins, and perhaps a lemon fortified hot toddy, got me through the day. I probably got a small dose of many diseases during my working hours which further boosted my immunity to the "bugs" carried in the sewage. For several years, prior to retiring, I handled raw sewage without gloves and glasses. However, I did wash my hands before using the bathroom!

AIDS was a big scare for wastewater operators until it was determined that the virus did not survive very long in sewage. Now we are dealing with COVID-19, a virus that can survive for several days in wastewater. Testing wastewater for the virus is often used in small communities such as mobile home parks and resorts to determine the possibility of someone being infected in a small community that has a private sewage treatment plant.

We are so fortunate to be living with a vaccine during a pandemic that is almost out of control. Most of us older ones are vaccinated. We're not immune to the virus; but we are offered some protection from being horribly sick if we are infected by one of the many variants of COVID-19. I am disappointed that so many people have an adamant negative view of vaccinations. Sure, there's some who may be compromised by the jab; but that is rare.

I am hopeful that a booster shot will soon be available. This will ensure further protection from the virus. With my somewhat compromised lungs I am concerned that approximately 50 percent of the people I have contact with are not vaccinated. Many of those individuals are not taking steps that may help others avoid contact with the virus. With the nation soon to fully "open up," and worldwide travel increasing, there is no doubt that the infection rate could possibly escalate.

 On another note, now that the high winds have finally subsided, Pepe is usually outside laying on his private lawn basking in the sun. I often join him, but not to bask – the garden weeds need tending.

Pepe is a small, male Chihuahua mix, 8 years old, that accompanies Steve everywhere. Steve has a hearing disability that allows him to have an ADA Certified Service Dog.


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