Coping with COVID-19 by Fostering or Adopting Pets – A Win-Win for All
By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™
I’m betting that since “shelter in place” orders were announced in mid-March, many of you have binge watched Netflix shows, learned how to (sort of) trim your hair and gained a new appreciation for two-ply toilet paper.
I’m also betting that you are grateful to be quarantined with pets who you are showering with lots more attention and affection. Or, you have seen this pandemic as the perfect time to adopt a dog or cat, or at least, offer to foster a shelter pet.
Sure, we are ‘rescuing’ them, but they are also rescuing us. The healing power of pets has taken on greater importance during COVID-19 as millions of Americans began practicing social distancing and staying at home.
Scientific studies prove that a friendly doggy kiss or a soothing purr are good for our mental well-being and overall physical health. The health impact dogs, cats and other companion animals make on people has a name – it is called The Pet Effect.
A recent national survey of pet owners and non-pet owners by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute found that:
- 85 percent of respondents agree interaction with pets can help reduce loneliness.
- 76 percent agree human-pet interactions can help address social isolation.
- 72 percent believe human-animal interaction is good for their community.
I know firsthand how the arrival of a new four-legger can make brighten my days while “sheltering in place.” Meet our ‘pandemic era pup’ Emma. We were not expecting to add a third dog into our home. But there she was wandering the streets in our Dallas neighborhood about 10 days into the “shelter in place” orders were issued.
She appeared dehydrated and lacked a collar. We quickly took her to our nearby veterinary clinic where the staff confirmed no presence of a microchip identification. Our veterinarian, Dr. Debora Charles at the Casa Linda Animal Clinic, estimated that this black-and-white dog was about one year old and weighed a tad under eight pounds.
She also seemed too quiet for this young age. Most pups are full of energy, mischief and curiosity. She also lacked an appetite, declining treats we offered. A thorough medical exam a few days later explained her lethargy. Emma tested dangerously high for heartworms.
Treating heartworm disease is expensive and requires a lengthy protocol of treatments taking weeks. It is also critical that any dog infected with heartworms not run or do anything that can accelerate their heartbeats while the menacing worms inside their bodies are being slowly eradicated.
We contacted Next Door, local shelters and animal rescue groups to see if anyone was missing her. I suspect that no one claimed her because of the cost associated with treating this serious disease. Or worse. That her owner faced serious health issues and could no longer care for this young dog.
We adopted her and selected the name, Emma — a play on words for, “Who Am I?” She was warmly welcomed by Bujeau, our 85-pound mellow Bernese Mountain Dog mix; Kona, our play-minded terrier mix; and our three indoor cats, Casey, Rusty and Mikey.
Today, Emma’s personality has emerged. She smiles, cuddles in our arms and loves to take ‘cat naps’ with our other pets. She has a good appetite, is gaining muscle strength and readily takes her heartworm medicine. She has been a small but mighty bright spot in our lives upended by the coronavirus.
Emma is part of our family now, but for others, fostering has proven to be a great way to give back. My friend, Erin Fenstermaker, opened her home in Dallas to a pair of feline brothers, Apollo and Zeus on March 29 – one day after she returned from a business trip. She knew she would have the time to foster this bonded duo who had been surrendered and were not faring well in the shelter environment.
Fenstermaker has two friendly cats of her own, Finn and Pippi, but she wanted to care for Apollo and Zeus at a time when she knew she would not be able travel safely. Apollo and Zeus were suffering from upper respiratory infections, so she kept them in her spare bedroom for a month – away from her own cats – while she gave them daily medicine.
“They had to be quarantined until they recovered from their infection, but my cats could smell them under the bedroom door and could see them when I opened the door to feed them or play with them,” says Fenstermaker. “And, all four cats began playing by placing paws underneath the door. When Apollo and Zeus were deemed healthy, all the cats seemed to already know each other and get along.”
Fenstermaker cites three reasons why fostering Apollo and Zeus was the right decision:
- “They are young, about two years old and are very entertaining when they run through my house. They make me laugh.”
- “It is gratifying to see once they gained my trust, that they began to seek out my attention and affection.”
- “It’s not easy to be quarantined and not have regular human contact, but fostering helps distract me from feelings of social isolation. Fostering enables me to shift my focus on animals who really need my help.”
In many ways, Emma, Apollo and Zeus symbolize the positive impact that dogs and cats are making on people stuck in homes, often working remotely and missing face-to-face get-to-gethers with family and friends.
So, whether you adopt or foster a pet, who is really being rescued? I say it is a tie. Many of us are giving these animals a chance to share our homes and to feel safe and loved. And, these pets are giving us a priceless gift – unconditional (and safe) affection.
Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.