They are doggies and doggos, pups, puppers and pupperinos, floofs and fluffers, yappers, yippers, woofers and boofers. They are all good bois, 15/10. If they are heavy-set, they may also be chonky.
But whatever you call them, one thing is clear: We love dogs, and we need them right now.
“The crisis is highlighting how important the human-animal bond is,” says Humane Canada CEO Barbara Cartwright, who has been spending the pandemic with her cat, Merlin, and her Labrador, Gus. “At this time of social distancing and social isolation, it’s really coming through that animals bring us joy. They provide a way for us to reach out and connect, so the crisis is really showing how important animals are to our emotional and mental health.”
There are about 20 million companion animals in Canada, and during the isolation of the pandemic, that number has been rising: Pet placements are up, with record numbers being adopted, housed and fostered around the country.
Amid the unease and upheaval caused by the virus, dogs have claimed their spot front and centre, as our comforts, our companions, our entertainment, and in some cases, our sole remaining reason to leave the house. (Sorry to all you cool cats and kittens, but this is a dog story.)
We have seen dogs interrupting live weather forecasts, being the subjects of sports commentary, competing in dog park elections (Congratulations President Tuna!), and delivering inspirational video messages for the “two leggeds.” In one popular pandemic gag, people describe their pets as though they were coworkers, as in, “My coworker is giving himself a bath on top of my TPS reports,” or, “My coworker just peed under my desk.”
In the loneliest moments of isolation, we can console ourselves with the knowledge that “at least the dogs are happy!”
“It goes to the real crux of why dogs and cats are important components of our society today. They provide companionship without any restriction,” says Richard Paquette, a director with the Canadian Kennel Club in Ontario. “It’s unconditional. You may be stressed or lonely, and pets can fill in that void with their unconditional love, and their requirement for you to be responsible for them.”
Edmonton writer Alexis Kienlen says she and her partner had been thinking about getting a dog for a long time, and when she saw a post in early April about a litter of Boston terrier puppies, it seemed like the right moment.
“It’s just really good,” says Ms. Kienlen. “It’s a positive thing to think about and talk about and research that’s not a pandemic.”
After enjoying the puppies’ antics at a distance through videos and photos for weeks, they brought their puppy, Edie, home on Sunday.
Though she’s worked at home for many years, Ms. Kienlen said she’s a bit concerned about being able to properly socialize their new puppy during a time of physical distancing, and that she and her partner also worried for a moment about being “the people who are getting a puppy during the pandemic.”
“I talked to a friend of mine who has lots of dogs… and she said, ‘You know, it’s a sign of hope, so I think it’s the best thing you can do,’” Ms. Kienlen says.
Mr. Paquette, who is himself a dog breeder and also works with dog rescue organizations, said he had 10-15 people on a waiting list for six Lakeland terrier puppies, but that the list swelled to 30-40 aspiring pet parents. At the same time there’s more demand for dogs, Mr. Paquette says there are also fewer dogs available, as some rescues that would normally come from other countries are not currently being transported because of restrictions around the coronavirus.
“Demand is extremely high and there are very few puppies available,” Mr. Paquette says. “Most breeders plan years in advance. It’s not like we can suddenly turn on a switch or put a few more puppies in the oven kind of thing and have these puppies suddenly appear.”
At Canada’s humane societies, Ms. Cartwright says there’s been between a 30-70 per cent increase in adoptions and fostering, both from people who have been thinking for a while about taking in a dog and decided to seize the moment, and those looking for greater connection at a difficult time.
“It’s a great thing to have a greater recognition of the role of companion animals in our lives,” Ms. Cartwright says.
While demand has definitely increased, there are still dogs available for those ready to commit to a canine. However, as every child who has ever begged for a dog or cat has been warned, getting a pet is a big responsibility.
In addition to the usual roster of responsibilities around walking, feeding, and otherwise tending to our furred or feathered friends, adopting during the pandemic comes with additional considerations. Who will care for my pet if I get sick? Can I afford to pay for pet food if I’m not working?
Ms. Cartwright says people also need to consider whether they will still have the same time for a pet as we eventually ease out of lockdown, and that resources are coming out to help dogs deal with separation anxiety when we start spending more time apart.
But are we ready to deal with this situation without floofs and doggos at our side?
Let me ask my coworkers. One of them is sleeping on my lap.
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