My Quarantine Horse

After a family member fell ill with Covid-19, a horse in Pennsylvania became my new best friend

Max Ufberg
GEN
Published in
4 min readApr 13, 2020

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Meet Ron, named after the ’80s supergroup Asia. Photo illustration. Source photo courtesy of the author.

“W“Where the hell is Alfie’s cancer medication?” my girlfriend asked, frantically searching through her bag as our car sped along the highway. We were driving on Route 80 in Pennsylvania, leafless trees and empty pastures on either side of us, en route to my parents’ cabin, where we hoped to ride out the coronavirus pandemic. It was March 18, and the virus had started to sweep through New York City; between that and the fact that the kitchen sink in our apartment wasn’t working, we decided it was time to head for the hills. The rolling hills of northeastern Pennsylvania, to be exact, where the phrase “population density” is more often used to refer to deer than people.

Alfie is our very old and very cute cat. His fur is white on the underbelly and gray on top; sometimes, when he loses all sense of feline mystique, he lets his tongue hang stupidly out of his mouth. I think I love him most in those moments. Alfie is also quite sick. I’d forgotten his medication in the mad rush for the door, and now we would have to race to find a vet who could re-prescribe it. Nearly 150 miles from our home in Brooklyn, it was too late to turn around. Luckily, my girlfriend was able to reach a vet in the East Village, who agreed to ship a dosage up to our new lodging. Three weeks later, I’m happy to report the cat is fine.

Alfie and his tongue.

This is fortunate, because since arriving in Pennsylvania, where I grew up, the cat, my girlfriend, and a horse I call Ron are the only other living creatures I would have any meaningful interaction with until, well, who knows when. Of course, there have been phone calls and FaceTimes (and Zooms and Hangouts and Houseparties) with friends and family. But none of it makes up for the loss of face-to-face interactions; we need physical cues and corporeal experiences to feel like we are fully alive.

And so we began to take Alfie out for walks on a leash. A city cat, it was the first time in his 16 years on earth he’d sniffed the outdoors. Thanks to the fresh air and those medications, he…

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Max Ufberg
GEN
Writer for

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired