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On Adopting a Dog During a Global Pandemic

May. 11, 2020Yes, if you’re lucky enough to work from home, it’s a great time to adopt a dog, but be sure to answer these questions first to make sure you’re ready. 



My boyfriend and I went to our local animal shelter — “Just to look,” we promised each other — about two weeks before Covid-19 came to our state. We really did just look! But we also made soulful eye-contact with Rufus, a shy little guy who we discussed in great detail the entire way home. I (super casually) checked in on his online shelter listing every day, as we both started working from home and realized we weren’t going to be seeing other people for quite some time. I made it about a week in lockdown before I convinced my boyfriend that we should make a socially-distanced appointment at the shelter, just to see if Rufus was really as sweet as we remembered. He’d been there so long and no one was adopting him! He looked so sad and helpless. A week after that we were driving home with one quietly excited, somewhat stinky, extremely unidentifiable mixed-breed dog riding shotgun. 

Henry, née Rufus, is unquestionably the brightest point of the last month. It even delights me to give him the lion’s share of our dwindling peanut butter supply. Of course, we’re not the only ones who recently got such a bright idea. It can actually be a great time to adopt or foster, both for you and your local shelter. But if you’re a first-time dog owner and have as many questions as we did, here’s a starter pack of answers that helped us adopt the right way.

Q: Is it really a good idea to want a dog right now?

It is always a good idea to want a dog in your life — but specifically now, the answer is yes with an asterisk. Shelters are still accepting surrendered and found animals, and unfortunately, that generally hasn’t stopped under lockdown. Some shelters have even put out calls for more people to adopt or foster so they don’t run out of room. “Shelters are bracing for a potential increase in intakes as pet owners become ill and owners surrender due to financial strain,” says Amy Nichols, vice president of companion animals and equine protection at the Humane Society of the United States. If you’re able to work from home right now, it’s a doubly good time to familiarize a pet with your home and train them. Just make sure you’re not just doing this out of loneliness, boredom, or extreme vulnerability to cute dog photos. 

Q: No, I’m totally ready for a dog. 

I believe you, but you’ve also considered whether you can afford the monthly costs of food, flea prevention, and heartworm medication, not to mention emergency vet visits, right? And if you usually work in an office, you’re comfortable that you’ll still be able to take good care of a pet once things have returned to normal?

Q: Okay… What if I decide I’m not ready to take care of a dog?

That’s okay! Your local shelter can still use your help; call to see if they need any specific supplies or other support. And donations are always appreciated. 

Q: I’m really ready to adopt or foster! But is it safe to do right now?

Most shelters are following strict social distancing procedures right now, and yes, they are considered essential businesses. But “you should not show up at your local shelter unannounced,” says Nichols. Call instead; it’s likely you’ll make an appointment for whatever specific animals you’re interested in meeting, with minimal interaction with shelter staff. It’s still allowed (and advisable) to bring any pets or children to make sure everyone gets along. 

Be aware that you’d probably need to meet the dog(s), make a decision, and fill out adoption paperwork all within your allotted time window, so you don’t overlap with the next visitors — so it may help to really talk out the possibility of adopting before you show up. 

Q: If I do bring a dog home, how do I buy all the supplies? 

Dog owners may think this is obvious, but as a first-timer I was genuinely worried that pet supply stores wouldn’t count as essential businesses. Don’t worry, they do count. And a lot of them offer same-day curbside pickup or online delivery. If you don’t have that option on the day of adoption and want to do a quick and sanitary dash for the most essential supplies, this is your list: food, two bowls, a couple of toys, treats, a crate and/or bed, a collar or harness, a leash and compostable poop bags. Anything else you can probably do without until you can get it delivered. 

Be sure to read our 5 Ways to Green Your Pet’s Routine for more eco-friendly and sustainable choices when it comes to your new pet.

Q: What if I want to foster instead?

“Foster homes are the backbone of many shelters and rescues,” Nichols says. “They increase the capacity of the shelter or rescue to save more lives.” As always, you’ll need to give your shelter a full rundown of your housing and yard situation, and what kinds of dogs you’re comfortable fostering. A lot of foster dogs may have special medical needs, so especially now, make sure to ask about your shelter’s policy around veterinary care. Some may tell you which specific vet to visit, and some, but not all, cover vet costs — so get clear on that up front. Overall, fostering may be helpful if you’re still wary of a long-term commitment, since you’ll get a lot more support from the shelter. “Many shelters and rescues provide food, treats, and even toys and loaner crates to foster families,” says Nichols, “but it varies and should be discussed prior to committing to foster.”

Q: What should I know about my dog’s first few weeks at home?

For the most part, this is going to be the ideal version of getting your new dog acquainted with your home and lifestyle, although you won’t be able to take them to a professional trainer if they have serious behavioral issues. Still, this is a great time for general training. Two of the most important ways to raise a well-behaved dog are consistency and plenty of exercise, which are a lot easier to do if you’re lucky enough to work from home. Take advantage and get into a routine of at least a couple long walks a day (you need it too!), a consistent feeding and sleeping schedule, and chill time around the house where you can let your dog have some free reign while keeping an eye out for trouble. If your dog has an accident or chews an interesting new thing in their line of sight, you can consistently catch it and correct the behavior, which is a lot more effective than being harsh.

Q: What if my dog gets sick?

You’re probably not going to be able to go to the vet for a while, unless it’s an emergency. So ask a lot of questions about your new pet’s health status at the shelter. “Ideally, you should know your animal’s age, reproductive status, and medical history — including vaccination history, allergy history including vaccine reactions, any current medications being taken, and list of significant medical issues or procedures,” Nichols says. Depending on what state you’re in, local veterinarians may be able to consult over less serious health questions over the phone. Again, if you do think you may need to go to the vet, you’ll still want to call first. “Most clinics — even emergency clinics — want to screen your pet’s case before directing you to visit the clinic in person,” says Nichols. 

Q: What if I get sick?

“The time to make a preparedness plan for your pet is before you need it,” Nichols says. If you live alone, think about who may be able to care for your pet in an emergency. Get together extra supplies and any of your pet’s medications or records just in case you’d need to relocate them while you’re sick. And if worse comes to worst, know that you can reach out to your local shelter for support. “During this crisis, there may be options of temporary housing for pets, donated supplies, subsidized veterinary services, and more available to help people care for and stay with their pets.

READ THE HSUS’S FAQ FOR PET OWNERS

 

Have you adopted a dog during the pandemic? Share photos of your new pet with us on Facebook or Instagram and tag us in the post! @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine

Erin Berger

By Erin Berger

 —  Erin Berger is a freelance writer and former culture editor at Outside magazine. She’s based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she skis, bikes, and hikes. She has a puppy named Henry.

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