Tag Archives: pandemic and dogs

It’s a smaller world after all

Over the last three months, it’s become a smaller world. We got a vivid reminder when our dogs got so excited this week.

It was thrilling! Hope came home from work and she’d BEEN SOMEWHERE!

They could tell because their sniffers are so much better than ours. She’d gone someplace different, she brought home delightful new smells, and it was the most exciting thing that had happened in ages!

Reality check

Which just proves how limiting life has been for the last three months. Hope had been to the salon and gotten a haircut. Her first since the pandemic restrictions began in March. It was the first non-grocery-store “adventure” we’d had, and the dogs were ready to sniff all about it.

Tango, Booker, Torque, Simon

The dogs’ reaction really brought home how different life has been. In more “normal” times, coming home after a haircut would rate a perfunctory once-over at best. We, and our dogs, used to have pretty busy schedules. Dog classes two nights a week, occasional obedience, rally, or agility trials. Get-togethers with friends. On top of being at the shop six days a week, our schedules were pretty full.

Normal homecoming

Most dogs know their people’s schedules. They know the routine for the day; when who is supposed to leave, how long everybody will be gone, and when each person is coming home. Our dogs are no different. When we’re on schedule, our greetings are pretty laid back. They’re happy to see us when we come home, but it’s not the “where-have-you-been-and-what-have-you-been-doing” interrogation. And that’s the way it should be.

We know that times still aren’t “normal,” and probably won’t be for quite a while, if ever. The dogs’ reaction to Hope’s “field trip” took us by surprise, but it showed us that we’ll have some work to do to re-socialize our dogs when we can resume some of our normal activities.

Summer cancelled

Unfortunately, that won’t be this summer. Our obedience club, with our participation, decided to cancel all of our sessions until September, at the earliest. We’re not “living in fear” as some would portray. We are ensuring that no one will be put at risk for a recreational activity. All of us are volunteers, many in the “at risk” category, and we’d never forgive ourselves if the unthinkable happened. It’s just not worth it.

It does mean that, as things open up, we’ll have to take our dogs out more, visit places we haven’t been, remind them how to behave in public. It’s a good reminder that dogs’ worlds have also changed, and, in many ways, gotten smaller over the last months. Just as we’ll have to get used to a bigger world again, so will our dogs.

Connected during the shutdown

This week we learned how to stay connected while we’re all separated in our little bubbles. 

Before March 21, when our state (Illinois) went into shutdown mode, our days and weeks had regular markers. We knew it was Tuesday because that’s the day we go to Obedience classes. We knew it was Thursday because that’s the day we have Agility training. We know it’s Sunday because that’s the day we do our dogs’ nails, teeth, ears, etc.

Okay, Sunday hasn’t changed. We still do everybody’s nails, teeth, ears, etc. But the rest? Gone. Instead of filling our gas tanks every week, we’re still on the same tank as when the shutdown started. Instead of relaxing watching hockey or baseball in the evening, we’ve succumbed to a steady diet of HGTV. It’s less fattening than the Food Channel. But even the commercials have changed. Every big corporation is talking about how we’re all in this together, separate, but together.

Connected more personally

Fran was doing okay with it, for the most part. But, in all honesty, Fran would be a fairly happy hermit. Hope? Not so much. I miss yelling at my obedience students and joking around with my classmates. We’ve never been huge fans of talking on the phone, so, aside from the occasional yell “Simon, leave Tango alone!,” the house has been pretty quiet for us sisters.

Then we got together with some friends for a Zoom cocktail party. It was fun! We could see each other, we talked about dogs (what else?), and it felt like really getting together with friends.

Map of the world showing connected family

And this past weekend, we had a family Zoom get-together. We had to coordinate the timing just right – there were family members from Scotland, New Zealand, North Carolina, Illinois, and several California cities. It was great to see everyone, even on our tiny phone screens. And we got to “meet” our New Zealand cousin’s new puppy, Otis! We discovered that almost everyone had dogs. And the dogless two have other animals. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve seen studies mentioning that love for animals is, at least in part, genetic. That’s a force that runs strong in our family.

Scary bits

The most somber part was hearing the stories from one cousin who’s a doctor in the Chicago area. He’s an Ob/Gyn specialist, so not an emergency physician. And yet, he’s still on the front lines – treating patients who may be positive and still need to deliver their babies. But we got to virtually meet his Great Dane, Frankie. For some reason, he always had Frankie at daycare when we went to visit. Maybe he was afraid we’d go into “dog trainer” mode.

Actually, that was really tempting. Between the new puppy, the two “catch me if you can” pups in North Carolina, and the big galumpher here, it was hard to resist. But we weren’t there to lecture, but to connect with our far-flung family. 

The biggest laugh was Fran’s Boston Terrier, Simon. All our dogs were snoozing pretty peacefully during our family Zoom – until Simon started snoring. Loudly. The giggles heard ‘round the world! Fran had to mute her microphone.

Technology newbies

We didn’t set up either of the Zoom calls, but we understand it’s pretty easy to do. And free. So, while we’re not endorsing it, or any other “app” that lets you make video calls – we highly recommend it. We can all learn some new tricks and it helps to see other, friendly and loved, faces.

Dealing with the pandemic

We owe you an apology. We’ve been advocating dog games and dog training as a way of dealing with the pandemic. Of taking your mind off whatever anxiety and stress you’ve been feeling. 

But that’s not fair. That’s our escape, our way of dealing with what’s going on. It takes our minds off the worry we wake up with. When our new best friend, insomnia, isn’t paying us a visit.

We aren’t using our time to learn a new language, clean all the closets (not to mention the garage), spruce up the garden, or start a new fitness regime. We’re coping by doing things that are comforting and familiar. We suspect you are, too.

Common bond

The one thing we all have in common, the one thing that’s keeping us sane, is our dogs. 

Although we freely admit that the extra attention may just be stressing them out a bit. Hope’s French Bulldog Torque is getting extraordinarily clingy, and Fran’s Boston Terrier Simon is a tad cranky with the lack of naps.

But if this is the new, hopefully temporary, normal, our dogs are just going to have to get used to it. Instead of our regular two-nights-a-week training classes, we’re harassing them on a daily basis. We have short, individual training sessions with each dog every morning. It lets us start the day with a smile. 

It’s our thing. What’s yours?

We’d already started the habit of morning training. We firmly believe that habit is the most powerful force in the universe. When all of our routines and habits are thrown out of whack, as a good portion of the country has been, it’s an odd feeling. We don’t quite know what to do. So we fall back on habits – both good and bad. And revisit the things that are comfortable, soothing, and familiar.

How are you spending your time staying home? Are you okay? One of the things I (Hope) love to do is bake. Consequently, the freezer is filling up with cookies and cakes. Which is wonderful for occupying time peacefully, but terrible for our diet when even normal activities are lessened.

Lots of walks

It makes life a little easier that going for walks is still okay – as long as we maintain physical distance from everybody else. Since our favorite leashes are all six feet long, it’s really easy for us to judge the right “social distance” length – it’s a leash span! Now that the weather’s getting a little warmer, more people have the same thought and we see more people out and about. So far, everybody in our area is respecting the distance rules. 

And we’ve seen lots of little kindnesses like the “Bear Hunts” for children in the area. People are leaving teddy bears, or pictures of them, in their front windows for kids to find as they walk.

Tough week

The authorities are telling us that this week is going to be a difficult one, for a few reasons. Most horrific, of course, is the number of people killed and sickened by COVID 19. 

But it’s also not easy because this week includes holidays that are cherished for bringing families and friends together – Easter and Passover. Our family is figuring out how to gather by video chat – relatives from across the country and the world (Scotland & New Zealand) were supposed to be celebrating with us this week. We will celebrate together, somehow.

Comforting souls

But the ones we’ll be hugging will be our dogs. We’re grateful for their loud, exuberant, snorty, aggravating, adorable, soft, soothing presence every single day. Our dogs are helping keep us sane. It must be universally true. We saw a news report today that, for the first time ever, Chicago’s Animal Care & Control facility has no dogs to adopt. They’ve all found homes, comforting people dealing with the pandemic.

Dealing with pandemic: Woman napping holding a Boston Terrier
Fran & Booker

So we hope you’ll excuse us if we got a bit nagging with our talk of dog training. We think most dog lovers would have as much fun as we (and our dogs!) do, but it’s just not the right time. We’ll be here if and when you’re ready to try. Until then, hug your dog!

Strange times for dogs, too

Whether you’re in a mandatory “stay home” area, or practicing “social distancing,” we’re certainly living in strange times. 

We have absolutely no medical expertise, and we avoid talking politics, so our major topic of conversation (as usual!) is dogs.

So very many dogs out for walks!

Our shop is just north of Chicago in an extremely urban suburb, developed in the 1950s. The lots are small and there are many multi-unit buildings in our town. That said – even when we’re out walking our dogs, we rarely see anybody else doing the same.

Now, with most local businesses shuttered for the duration – people and their dogs are everywhere! It’s wonderful!

Lots of Bostons

The weirdest thing is, for us, that we keep seeing different Boston Terriers. We had no idea there were others in the area, both at home and at work. It could be that our eyes are just focusing on things we’re interested in, but since we’re pretty much interested in all dogs, we don’t think so.

And Shih Tzus! And a couple of Poodles! And two Airedales, not with the same people. Of course many Goldens, a couple of Min Pins, Pit Bulls, Boxers, German Shepherds, and the list goes on and on!

We have a feeling that a lot of these dogs have never had as much attention and exercise with their owners in their lives. These poor dogs are going to be so happy when their 16-hour naps are back on the schedule!

Of course the up-side to this is that the dogs are going to be in better shape than they’ve ever been in their lives. They may be sore for the first couple of days, but they’re going to love it!

Great outlet

We dog people are all so very lucky to have our best friends with us, even in these strange times. Technology allows us to stay in touch with the people who matter most to us, but having the warmth of our dogs next to us is vital, too. 

Dogs, like this pug, give comfort in strange times

If your life has changed drastically in the last couple of weeks (and whose hasn”t?), chances are you’re feeling somewhat stressed, anxious, and perhaps even afraid. Keep in mind that our dogs not only are capable of these same emotions, but are also well-attuned to us, and could be absorbing your stress, too.

If you’re fond of music, keep some favorite tunes playing. It really does have a positive effect for both people and dogs.

Dogs adore routine! 

Try to keep your new schedule as regular as possible.

Dogs absolutely know when it’s time to eat, walk, and play. They also know when it’s time for someone to come home, or leave. They have powerful internal clocks that can even predict when it’s the weekend, or a regular day off. That’s one of the reasons they may seem unsettled now. A “staycation” can be just as upsetting to their routine as mandatory stay-at-homes, like we have now.

Take comfort in your dog

All the health studies conducted about human interaction with dogs prove that our dogs are good for our well-being. Take advantage of your best friend’s presence. While you’re binge-watching a favorite television show, trying to keep yourself calm, invite your best friend to share the couch. And the popcorn. Dogs love popcorn.