Adopting a dog during the pandemic

Months of sheltering in place and the loneliness it causes contribute to the desire to add pets to our lives. Since the start of the pandemic, adoption of pets has steadily increased in the United States; Shelters, rescue centers, private breeders and pet stores have all reported increased consumer demand for dogs and cats. As the reality of a prolonged life of social isolation sets in, those of us who once thought we had no time for animal care now have time to spare.

Like nearly 55 million other Americans since March, my wife Michelle and I recently became unemployed, and our morale was low due to the daily struggle of simultaneously finding work and soul. On the plus side, the quarantine gave time to bond more tightly; without the jobs that once kept us too busy and distant to spend quality time, there were new opportunities to reconnect.

Since our dating days, we had discussed getting a dog. We both grew up with dogs and always wanted to adopt one as a couple. But as two professionals who spent ten to twelve hours a day away from home, we weren’t the best candidates to own a dog. However, as the idea of ​​working remotely seemed more feasible than ever, we decided the time was right.

Full of hope, we set out to visit local shelters and rescue centers. To our surprise, most of the dogs in these places had either been adopted or were on hold, waiting for their new humans to be approved. We then went online, reviewing organizations’ websites and filling in application after application, only to be greeted with silence. Eventually we got so desperate that we stopped at a local puppy shop – an option we had initially refused to consider. The smooth-talking salesman escorted us from one Plexiglas booth to the next, showcasing puppies of various breeds, almost all under three months old. When we finally found one we were interested in, he exclaimed, “And it’s all yours for just $4,900!”

“Are you kidding me?” Michelle noticed. “It’s like buying a car!”


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“Well, we also have great financing options,” he replied in a serious, but sympathetic tone.

The idea of ​​buying a puppy as if it were a commodity was unsettling. I started wondering where these puppies actually came from and how to tell if a store or breeder could be trusted. And what happened to unsold puppies or young dogs that got too old for the showroom floor?

Approximately two million puppies are bred in the United States each year by licensed and unlicensed puppy mills. How many will end up in shelters if pandemic trends and consumer demand decline? With the return to work, will some of these dogs be abandoned or abandoned because they no longer meet the needs of their masters? By 2021, will we see an increase in the 1.2 million shelter dogs euthanized each year? Questions like these have strengthened our commitment to adopting from a shelter.

For over a month, Michelle and I spent our free time staying in touch with our favorite local shelter, checking in frequently on new arrivals. They called our references and did a virtual home visit ahead of time to make sure we were good candidates.

Raj and Maisie-Mae (left); Michelle with their new dog on the way home from the shelter (right)

Then it happened. We were informed that an ‘owner’s surrender’ pup had arrived at the shelter: a beautiful five-month-old Yorkie mix, born coincidentally a day after Michelle lost her job in March. We were open to adopting an adult dog, but ideally we wanted a puppy that we could train to suit our lifestyle, both when we were working remotely and when we were returning to a work schedule at home. full-time. As soon as the puppy was examined by the shelter’s volunteer veterinarian, we were invited to meet her.

Dating a dog is like going on a first date. Would she love us? Would we vibrate well together? To our amazement, she was everything we were looking for in a dog: the sweetest, cleanest, most playful disposition. We were in love. Two days after our first meeting, we were able to take her home. Since then, she has acclimatized well to her new life.

Welcoming a new furry family member also influenced future life decisions. We begin to envision a life centered around our home rather than a formal workplace. Since the start of the pandemic, we have been able to put more emphasis on family life than career trajectory, and are even starting to prefer it.

Maybe the dog adoption rate has been higher lately because more and more Americans are finally learning how to build a healthy existence: caring for something beyond us, companionship, affection , unconditional love, loyalty, mutual respect. Maybe dogs tell us more about ourselves than our jobs. By reveling in the basic necessities of daily life – a nap, a meal, a walk, a cuddle, the occasional bath, earned trust, a sense of duty and belonging – dogs show us what matters. And as we learn about dogs, maybe we’ll learn more about each other too.

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