Wednesday, October 27News That Matters

Pandemic Pets Are Giving Times Journalists a Boost

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

Judging from their appearances together during work videoconferences, Andrea Zagata and her puppy, Rosalie, can seem inseparable. Ms. Zagata, a staff editor for the Print Hub, which produces the print edition of The New York Times, adopted the dog from a Manhattan rescue organization in September. Since then, Rosalie, with her big brown eyes and an ear that sits permanently perked up, has been a constant presence at Ms. Zagata’s side (or in her lap).

Ms. Zagata and her husband, Josh Crutchmer, the print planning editor for the Print Hub, had been casually looking for a new companion since losing their beloved dog, Abby, earlier in the year. “I was so sad after we lost Abby,” Ms. Zagata said. “It was hard to make myself go outside. There wasn’t a reason. I did not realize that I’m the kind of person who really just needs to have a dog.”

Rosalie, part Rottweiler and part chow chow, among a multitude of other breeds, is one of many pets who have found homes this year, part of a surge in animal adoptions all over the country during the pandemic. And staff members at The Times seem to have contributed in their own way to this increase, with employees from all parts of the newsroom bringing home their own fluffy (or scaled or feathered) friends in recent months.

These additions have brought comfort in an anxiety-filled year and company in a time when office colleagues are visible only on a screen.

Some staff members, like the sports reporter Sopan Deb, had never prioritized having a pet, but ample time at home (and his fiancée’s birthday) provided the perfect opportunity for Mr. Deb to finally start searching for one. Within a day, the couple had found and fallen in love with Koko, a cavalier King Charles spaniel and bichon frisé mix. Her name was inspired by Kolkata, the Indian city formerly known as Calcutta, where Mr. Deb’s family is from.

“I adore her in a way that is incalculable to me,” Mr. Deb said. “This dog is part of our family.”

Not only have these pets quickly become a part of their households — Mr. Deb likens himself to a “pushover parent” — but in some ways, they have also been like new co-workers, frequently emerging as guests, whether intentional or not, during meetings.

Lana Porter, the creative director for the research and development team, has had her pandemic puppy, a miniature Australian shepherd named Stevie, make multiple appearances during videoconferences. When another employee on her team acquired a pet, meetings resembled a virtual dog park.

“At one point we had his dog on the feed, my dog was on the feed, and everyone was watching our dogs,” Ms. Porter said. “We’ve almost created a whole new type of event where people just watch each other’s pets.”

Several staff members also take to Slack, the messaging platform, to share photos of their four-legged friends, either in a channel designated specially for pet picture swapping or among their own teams. Sara Bonisteel, a senior staff editor on the Food desk, made a family announcement to colleagues on Slack when she adopted two tuxedo cats named Astra and Diomedes.

“We’re so far into this pandemic that I feel like you get set in your pandemic ways,” Ms. Bonisteel said, adding of the adjustment to her new cats: “It will break up that structure, and that’s a good thing. It provides a little lift.”

And in a year filled with sadness and physical and emotional distance, seeing a cute creature onscreen can help bring co-workers just a little bit closer.

“Sometimes we have a little bit of a rough close on Saturday mornings, especially when news is happening,” Ms. Zagata said of meeting the Print Hub deadlines on that day. “Every now and again, someone will say, ‘Hey, can you put that puppy on?’ She’s been kind of a reward.”