COVID-19 is screwing pet owners out of bonding time
Why dog owners may need to find a relative or caregiver if infected
The good news is coronavirus has given antisocial dog owners a new excuse to not stop and say “hi” to every single dog and walker your dog sees. It’s fun at first, but at some point, you start feeling like parents who are forced to talk to each other at the playground when you really just want to read a book and let the “kids” play on their own. (I wouldn’t recommend this in dog parks unless you’re in an enclosed area, and your dog has no beef with the others.)
But now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is giving dog owners an “out” that they probably don’t want. According to this video (above), dog parks should be shied away from. The problem isn’t necessarily the dogs, but dog owners should definitely be making a conscious effort to stay six feet away from each other. (Considering entirely too many grocery stores have to put down tape to notify people of how far six feet is, some clearly are not taking the hint.)
And although there has been minimal proof that a dog can get coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), it’s not impossible — although canine respiratory coronavirus (CRCoV), or “kennel cough,” is far more common. In addition to a new reason why your dog should never drink toilet water — and a source of frustration for bidet owners — there’s more safety advice out that will be unpleasant for dog owners to hear. The FDA is now recommending that owners who are infected request a loved one take care of the pet and stay away from it to avoid spreading the illness onto the pup.
Could this be a new opportunity for dog caregivers?
Both Wag and Rover have seen declines in dog walking, dog boarding and dog house sitting. Dog owners are home more often than usual in the past 3.5 months, whether through involuntary unemployment or working from home. Business travelers have never sat in one place for so long. For these reasons, it’s unnecessary to hire the regular dog walker when dog owners are already home. The only time it gets complicated is with workers who are still too busy to walk their own dogs. Harnesses, leashes and collars have to be passed off from a safe distance (or a backyard), and everything from doorknobs to crate doors need another round of disinfectant to keep strangers from infecting their homes. To put it bluntly, it’s gotten rough for dog lovers.
A couple of weeks ago, I looked out of one of my living room windows and saw one of my regulars run past. I did a double take and moved closer. I knew it was her because of a distinct pattern in her fur. It turned out her owner had moved out of the way to allow other dogs to walk by. I slid the window open to talk through the screen, and the dog went absolutely ballistic when she heard my voice, jumping and trying to pull her way toward me.
I knew if I walked out the door, she was going to try to yank her way toward me, so I stood firmly in place on my living room floor. (It hurt a little bit. She’s tied for my favorite dog of 76, and the only dog who competes with her doesn’t live walking distance from me.) By going outside, I’d put her owner in an awkward spot by coming within a six-foot distance. However, this wasn’t an off-leash dog, so letting her run loose was a bit sketchy, too. The first sign of a rabbit or prey, and she would immediately take off at 35 miles per hour minimum.
The odd (but good) news for infected dog owners is that if you have an available dog caregiver who can take in your dog at a moment’s notice, that’s one worry you won’t have. The bad news is your dog is a source of comfort, so the last thing you want to do is distance yourself from the living being most likely to want to hang out and lay under you for hours on end. It sucks, but letting go of that four-legged security guard who wants to be petted 24/7 could save the pup from potential (but very low) infection, too.
In a perfect world, maybe you could escape being part of the 2.1 million and growing number of COVID-19 cases in the United States. But with more than 116K Americans dying from the health outbreak, this is as good of a time as any to get your ducks (or dogs) in a row. Make sure you have a last will and testament that properly plans for any emergencies, and that includes an emergency contact for your dog. While I hope you never ever need to use it, dodging the idea of creating one does no one any favors — besides probate court.