We were so lucky. Two days before New Year’s Eve, my daughter and I discovered a rescue dog up for adoption during an “I am so bored” trip. It seems about a dozen (by my memory) dogs were taken from an area puppy mill. I was drawn instantly to the tiny — only 6 pounds of shivering white-and-black fur — toy fox terrier. I couldn’t stop staring at her as she curled up into the smallest ball she could possibly make, perhaps trying to make herself disappear.
My heart was broken. We left after asking to cuddle her. I needed to talk to my husband. I dragged him to the store the next day. And the next. “No, we can’t,” we both said. “We already have a high-maintenance dog.”
We were lying to ourselves. We both knew we were in love. So on Jan. 2, 2020, Penny Love came into our lives. And we are all head-over-heels, hopelessly adoring what I am now calling “the most perfect dog in the entire world.”
So 2020 started auspiciously, but quickly tanked. But through all the stress, the fear, the anger and the depression, my little Penny has been by my side, giving and getting more love (and maybe more walks) than she ever had in her approximately two years of life. The nasty (I actually would prefer to use a stronger word, but won’t) previous owners hadn’t even named her. She was just a breeder.
The past few months, we were not alone in finding comfort and solace with pets. But as we all transition back into a semblance of normalcy and start leaving the house for work and chores, I’m afraid pets all over are going to be devastated that their human companions aren’t around.
The ASPCA has suggestions that might help. I am still working from home 90% of the time, but I am already worried about Penny and her companion, our other dog Riley (who has calmed down and apparently LOVES having a sister around).
I started googling and here are some of the tips from the ASPCA to help your animals cope with separation anxiety:
Take strolls outside without your pet so you can make sure it is comfortable when you’re away.
Make sure there is a cozy spot for your cat or dog to nap alone (your lap will no longer be available).
Buy some interactive food-puzzles and other toys to keep your pet(s) occupied. (A caveat from me on that tip. My “Dog No. 1” sometimes can’t help herself. She will aggressively steal a chewie from Penny. I don’t want that to happen when I’m away).
If you sense your pet is distressed, check around. Many pet behaviorists and trainers are offering virtual appointments.
Penny and Riley are a part of our family and our life. I am torn about not being homebound not because I wasn’t going stir crazy, but because I will miss those two little girls. Even though times were scary and tough, they were there, begging for treats and playing with their stuffed toys.
Maybe I can start bringing both with me to the office.
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