A girl, her dog and a global pandemic…

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A girl, her dog and a global pandemic…

Raise your hand if you are experiencing COVID whiplash. I know I certainly am. When I set out to write this piece, my original assignment was to focus on how to handle the post-pandemic transition for our pets, as we, the humans, headed back to work and school. You know that longing, for a feel good, albeit somewhat cautionary tale of how to adjust to life for our pets back to “life as we used to know it.” The time before we were joined at the hip 24/7, went on endless walks, binge watched “The Secret Life of Pets” and all the “Madagascar” movies. I had no idea what a moving target this would be, nor how quickly the landscape would change.

Damn you Delta variant, damn you “breakthrough cases”. (Biting my tongue on the topic of the unvaccinated…) This resurgence is seriously messing with my sneaky plans to reclaim my life, let alone write this blog, but I’m committed to sharing as much good info as I can, keeping the faith for a brighter future and if nothing else, keeping you and your furry family amused and safe as we ride this thing out.

So, I think this might be a good time to start with a little to-do list. We have all seen the public service announcements reminding us not to put off our own health maintenance because of COVID, things as mundane as the annual physical, to the things we put off in the best of times, like colonoscopies and mammograms. But what about our beloved beasts? If we aren’t getting into the doctors for our stuff, are we doing any better by our pets? According to the Animal League of America, we are failing our pets pretty miserably. In the last 19 months of tracking, regular health checks and immunizations, like rabies and Parvo are down by over 29%.

In an interview with Brittany Colbath, DVM at VCA, she said she was alarmed by the number of clients that were not getting their pets in for routine check-ups and booster shots. “The majority of our clients coming through the door are here for acute or traumatic health issues.” So, when asked what we as pet owners should be prioritizing, her response was, “Don’t put off regular check- ups, this is how we find problems in their early stages. Keep up on required vaccinations. This is our base responsibility to keep them healthy.”

I also talked to a few groomers. For some breeds, this might seem like a luxury, but for many breeds, this is an important part of their overall health and wellness. Breeds like Huskies, Shepherds and many of the majestic mountain breeds that have undercoats, it is almost mandatory maintenance. This also falls true the smaller breeds like collies, spaniels and poodles and all manner of my most beloved “mutts”. I emailed with Marybeth, owner of YouTube sensation, Rover’s Makeover. She said, “We saw a big drop off in our regular customers but a big spike in the last six months of really overgrown pups.” Her message was, “Don’t neglect things as simple as a nail trim. It can really affect the health and comfort of your pet.”

Another critical component on our checklist of things we often overlook or put off for our pets is their oral hygiene and dental health. This has never been truer than during the pandemic. I had an in-depth interview with Betsy Lewis, owner and practitioner at K-9 Dental based in Portland OR. (www.k9dental.net) They provide anesthesia free dental cleanings for dogs and cats! Betsy said that “Much like in humans, oral health for our pets has a huge impact on their overall health.” According to the American Heart Society, “Poor oral hygiene, plaque and tartar can exacerbate heart disease and premature death in both humans and animals.” The unfortunate part for our animals is that they can’t easily tell us if they have a tooth ache or cavity. And a word of caution, if you can smell Fluffy’s breath, it’s usually the sign of a problem with tooth decay or periodontal disease. Get it checked!!

On a recent visit to the Pope Memorial Humane Society in Concord, New Hampshire, I asked the staff there what kind of impact the pandemic had on the shelter. They said that while adoptions were higher than normal, donations were unfortunately down as well as volunteer staffing. I had popped in to donate some kibble in memory of my cousin’s dog and left with a renewed commitment to make more effort to support them and a flyer for an upcoming dog walk-a-thon. In my case in will be a dog carry-a-thon, as I am mother to a 17 yr. old Chihuahua named Charlie who is completely blind and deaf. He has been one of my saving graces during this crazy pandemic. He still greets each day like an adventure waiting to happen and although he runs into a lot of stuff, he still darts around like a puppy. He is a good reminder to appreciate the now. He has also taught me that naps aren’t just for small children. How did I not know how great naps are??

So if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with some of your spare time or have a little extra change you can part with, stop in and support your local shelter. The humans and animals will all thank you. (Most shelters post wish lists on their websites, food is an obvious need but there is also a big need for things like bedding, towels and toys. So next time you clean out the linen closet, remember your furry buddies!)

While I wish I was sharing helpful tips and tricks to help your pet adjust to you getting dressed before noon and rushing off to the office, I will instead encourage all of us to make the most of this extra face time. Learn from your pets, they have a whole lot to teach us about patience. Now go take a walk!! Or a nap, or a nap then a walk…did someone say treat?

And seriously, who rescued who? 😉