The lack of in-person engagements and social opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic drove people across the country, including some University of New Mexico students, to bring new pets into their homes. As life picks up again, these Lobos are still finding camaraderie and comfort in their pandemic pets.

Naina (Great Pyrenees and German Shepherd dog mix)

Sikandar Awan, a Ph.D. student pursuing a teaching, learning and teacher education degree at UNM, took in a Great Pyrenees and German Shepherd mix named Naina from a friend in Santa Fe in June 2020.

Naina is a Hindi name that means “pretty eyes,” Awan said. As a dog-lover, Awan grew up with a German Shepherd when he was young, citing his early affinity for the breed as a motivator for taking in Naina.

Adopted in the early months of the pandemic, Naina helped Awan get outdoors and feel less stagnant. This semester, Awan’s curriculum is largely conducted in a hybrid format, which allows him to spend more time at home with Naina. 

Juno (domestic short-haired kitten)

Haley Myler, a fourth-year student in UNM’s music program, adopted 5-month-old kitten, Juno, in April 2020 following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though she wasn’t actively looking for a cat, Myler said living alone in the wake of shutdowns was particularly difficult. 

Bringing Juno into the home and having an animal to take care of was good for her overall well-being during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The companionship is something else; it’s not something I’ve ever felt with a person before,” Myler said. “It’s always nice coming home to her.”

Myler said Juno is still getting accustomed to spending time alone now that classes are taking place via in-person instruction and is very clingy.

Ziva (Husky and cattle dog mix)

Bella Hautzinger, a sophomore studying psychology at UNM, found a friend and emotional support animal in Ziva, a Husky and cattle dog mix. Hautzinger adopted Ziva from Albuquerque’s Eastside Animal Shelter last September.

Hautzinger still lives in the dorms and deals with ongoing struggles with mental and physical health, so adding a dog to the mix was a hard transition but was ultimately worth it.

“It’s made me a more productive person and given me something to care about,” Hautzinger said.

Ziva is still learning how to behave in public settings, but attending classes on campus with Hautzinger is in her future.

As the days of social isolation transition into something more reminiscent of pre-pandemic days, these pets continue to bring joy and friendship to these Lobos. 

Rebecca Hobart is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @DailyLobo