Tag Archives: pandemic and dogs

Dogs put on pandemic pounds, too

We’re embarrassed to admit – we’ve let pandemic pounds creep up on the dogs. We realized the truth this week at the vet’s office. When Hope absolutely refused to put Torque on the scale.

The last several weeks Hope’s French Bulldog, Torque, has been wearing the cone of shame. Another eye injury. And weekly trips to the vet for progress checks.

Torque, a French Bulldog, has put on pandemic pounds

This week, while waiting for the vet, Hope noticed that Torque’s looking a bit thick. He’s definitely an “easy keeper” – which translates to “puts on weight by looking at food.”

We can certainly identify. Unlike the Boston Terriers, who seem to have non-stop metabolisms, Torque gains weight easily. This has been particularly painful for us because we have to carry him up the stairs from the basement. He’s not great at stairs at the best of times. Wearing a cone, they’re impossible. So our weight-lifting has included schlepping a Frenchie up a flight of stairs, multiple times a day.

Pandemic pounds

It’s been months that our regular dog activities have been suspended. And now that the weather’s cold, we’re not even spending much time outside walking, playing, or practicing. So just like us, our dog that’s prone to gaining weight is doing exactly that.

Now that we realize what’s going on, we’ll start our “Torque needs to lose weight again” regimen. And we thought we’d share, because we know if it’s happening with our dog, it’s going on with others, too. 

Great substitutes

We’ve never been able to resist the “puppy dog eyes” look – especially the pitiful one that says “I’m starving!” – even when we know it’s not true. So, to keep the volume of food about the same, and lessen the calorie count, we make substitutions. 

Replacing some higher-calorie food with low-calorie options is as simple as: fill the dog’s bowl as usual, take a handful of regular food out. Replace it with the same size handful of frozen green beans. Then put in a couple extra beans, because guilt.

Veggies are your friends

Most dogs love frozen green beans, and they work great for calorie control. You can use whatever green vegetable your dog likes. Torque adores celery and cucumbers (or raw pickles), so we use fresh veggies, too. Be aware, though, that both of those have a high water content. Which is great for calorie control, but may mean your dog has to go out more often. 

We know there are many, many diet plans, for both dogs and people. Both Fran and Hope are long-time battlers of the weight-control war and firm believers in data. The data shows that when we (or our dogs) use more calories than we consume, we lose weight. Any combination of increased calorie use and decreased consumption results in weight loss, for us and our dogs. It works the same for pandemic pounds as any other type.

Invisible to the fat dog

Torque will never know that he’s on a weight-loss journey. He’s going to be satisfied by the meals he gets, and love every bite. We’ll know we’re successful in helping our fat dog when we see his waist reappear. We’re hoping that will coincide with being able to get back to doing “stuff” with our dogs and dog friends. And the era of “pandemic pounds” will be in the past.

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!