Flat White

What’s it like to have coronavirus? I am a labrador

30 July 2021

4:00 AM

30 July 2021

4:00 AM

When I was in my twenties, a quiz went around asking what type of dog you were. Without even seeing the results, all my friends picked me as a labrador: goofy, affectionate, likes their tucker. A lot. 

Later in life, I’ve been pegged as a stubborn beagle — by a friend who is clearly a fox terrier, so he can hardly talk. 

I contracted coronavirus last week. I’m vaccinated, but there are still symptoms. And not just the nose blowing type (plenty of that too).

My husband had already contracted it and we were just waiting to get it as household contacts — because with Delta, everyone gets it. He had lost his sense of taste and smell by the time I was becoming symptomatic. 

I apologised for the repulsive farts I was doing in bed, but he was oblivious. I was ecstatic. 

Our eldest daughter has since contracted covid and is comforted by our ability to all laugh about it together. Morning breath, too, is just a sad memory.


Having no taste (with the exception of sweet, sour, bitter and salty) or smell seemed quite appealing to me. I would never need to diet again, because custard tarts would hold no more appeal than mashed zucchini in a rice cracker case. Hurrah!

Or so one would think. 

On the first day my taste and smell disappeared — and it is sudden; staggeringly sudden — some lovely friends dropped around homemade lasagna and apple crumble. 

I thought it wasn’t worth eating and, so the kids could have more, I’d just try a little because they looked so good. And try I did. The texture of the pasta was silky, the meaty chunks interesting in the cheek. The crumble was the pinnacle of tactile sensation. Super crunchy with lovely mushy apple underneath. Then I had seconds. My tummy hurt. 

I grazed on the accompanying bag of lollies for days afterwards. I could taste the sweetness, but I was determined to taste the orange in that jube, with its crunchy sugar coating and springy body. The next one would surely bring that flavoursome reward. 

I strongly imagined that orange flavour, the coffee in my warm cup of milk, the baked potato gem. Could still have been baked and crispy cardboard.

But in the absence of those mostly delightful senses of taste and smell, it’s as though the brain craves more of the other senses. 

I would easily have gone a few pop tarts with cold tinned spaghetti on them, because the craving for mouth sensation was so totally overwhelming.

It’s astonishing and disconcerting. 

Coronavirus isn’t like a usual cold where you can at least smell coffee. Dog poo? No problem if it looks like chocolate pudding. Habanero chilli sauce is a doddle. It’ll just make your bum hurt tomorrow. 

I can eat anything. I am invincible.

Now, finally, my friends from my youth have scientific confirmation: I am a labrador. 

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