Rene Pioli craved connection after the death of her beloved dog last week, especially as her Arizona community continues to practice social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.
So Pioli got creative, organizing a live, in-person “chat room” on her front lawn that’s already brought special bonds with friends and strangers alike, she told CBS affiliate KPHO.
“I have to say this has been the happiest day I’ve had for a couple of weeks,” Pioli said.
The inspiration for her live chat drive/walk-up came after she lost Squirrel, her 14-year-old chihuahua mix, to old age.
“I decided I needed to talk to people,” she told KPHO.
With that in mind, she opened up the front window of her North Phoenix home and set up a chair (with disinfecting wipes!) about 10 feet away, adding a sign that explained the set-up to passerby.
Soon enough, more than 15 neighbors and strangers had taken Pioli up on her offer.
“I only knew three of them. I met a lot of new neighbors and also people who were just coming through the neighborhood to check on somebody would just stop by and I’ve never seen them before,” she said. “It was fun.”
She connected with one stranger in particular over their love of animals, as the person was involved with animal shelters and rescue.
“We talked about my dog and a lot of people gave me leads on where I can find another companion,” Pioli told KPHO. “It was just nice visiting with everybody.”
The arrangement was a huge success for Pioli, who said she’s going to keep the sign up, and hopes that her experience will help others realize they’re not alone.
“I can imagine what everyone is going through and it’s terrible. The smiles I saw today lifted my heart. Everybody needs the human connection, not just me,” she said. “So if there’s anybody out there feeling like it’s just you, it’s not true.”
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order on March 30 telling residents to stay home with the exception of essential activities, including obtaining necessary supplies, caring for family or friends and outdoor exercise.
As of Monday afternoon, the state had 2,269 cases and 64 deaths attributed to the coronavirus, according to The New York Times.
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