SAN DIEGO — As she typed on a laptop computer on the dining room table last month, wrapping up some work for her job at UC San Diego, Yvonne Grobe could feel the weight of a very serious stare burning into her from the next room.
Working in her current office space in San Carlos, California during the COVID-19 pandemic, Grobe slowly turned her head to the left. There, just above a half wall separating the dining area from the family room, the family's energetic 3 1/2-year-old dog, Marcus, was up on the back of the couch — his head tilted, tongue out and panting, big brown eyes focused on Grobe, tail wagging furiously.
Marcus jumped off the couch and bounded into the dining room as the victor. Again, he had won the eye contact game.
Grobe has been working from home for more than a year, and during that time, the 28-pound gray and white French bulldog/Boston terrier has grown very close to her. Grobe said that Marcus can be cuddling with her husband or playing with her two daughters, but as soon as she enters the room, the dog heads her way.
"I went from somebody not necessarily wanting a dog to saying that he's the best thing that's come into our lives," Grobe said. "He just loves me, and I love him. He completes our family."
Grobe's husband is an electrician, so he has worked all through the pandemic, going to job sites. Her daughters, ages 10 and 12, were home part of the time during the past school year.
So with Grobe at home, Marcus has become quite accustomed to her daily routine — morning coffee, online meetings, short doggie breaks outside to pee, play and to say hello to neighbors. Then, there's lunch, a quick walk and, of course, more attempts at eye contact when possible.
But those days are soon going to be over. Grobe, like thousands of employees who have been able to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, is making plans to return to a regular schedule, in an office that isn't home.
"Now that we are slowly starting to return to work, I'm afraid that it's going to be very difficult for him," Grobe said. "I don't know what I'm going to do with him. I'm sure he'll be fine regardless, but he is really attached to me."
The transition back into the physical office can be daunting enough for people, but it may also pose myriad challenges for pets like Marcus who have become even closer to their families during the pandemic, said Amanda Kowalski, director of behavior programs for the San Diego Humane Society.