The Nashville Ledger


FLIGHT. 45 | NO. 36 | Friday, September 10, 2021

By Catherine Mayhew

Updated at 9:15 p.m.

It was March 2020, and you thought you would only be staying home for a few weeks. When weeks turned into months, you felt a little lonely. So you adopted a dog.

Things were going wonderfully. You played with the dog. You took care of the dog. You walked the dog. You were with the dog 24/7 and that was a glorious thing.

Then the vaccine came along and with it the ability to start to get back to normal. You couldn’t wait to socialize with friends and get back to work. You left the house. Oh oh.

The dog – let’s call him Fido – got confused. After more than a year of living together, you were now gone from time to time. Fido became anxious. He started scratching at the door, thinking it would pull you back through. He decided to use the sofa as a personal chew toy. After all, you weren’t there to entertain him and he decided to entertain himself.

Professionals call them pandemic puppies. And some of them need some serious help. But the good news is that there is help available to acclimatize your new best friend to go out into the world, maybe for the first time.

‘How much joy she brings’

Pet adoption skyrocketed during more than a year of stay at home. Shelter Animals Count, which tracks around 500 organizations nationwide that rescue pets, found that there were 26,000 additional pet adoptions in 2020, a 15% increase. The New Yorker reported that BluePearl, a network of vets, reported a 20% increase in visits, more than half of which came from new pet owners. Chewy’s sales jumped 47%, Petco’s by 11%.

Some people adopted pets because they felt lonely. Others found that they suddenly had more time than usual to spend with a pet. But Money Magazine found that a large number – 72% – were only responding to a long-standing desire to become a pet owner.

Thomas Williams, a Nashville real estate agent, was one of those people. About three months ago, a new cat named Ro Ro came to live with Williams.

Real estate agent Thomas Williams interacts with his new kitten Ro Ro, who was adopted via The Catio Nashville.

– Photo by Michelle Morrow | The ledger

“I knew I would love to have a pet, but not as much as I did,” he says. “It’s amazing how much joy she brings. It is a cat that acts like a dog. She’s going to look. She loves people and wants to be with people.

Williams adopted Ro Ro from The Catio, a feline adoption center. He spent a lot of time there making sure the fit between owner and animal was perfect.

“It’s a bit like trying it on before you buy it,” he adds. “I have been there several times and there are a lot of cats. I wanted to make sure she liked me and that we bonded. She sat on my lap for three hours. She knows she is important to me. I think they just want to be loved and she knows I care about her and will protect her. I never thought I was like this. I’m quite in love with her.

Tom and Marida Stearns, a retired couple who live in Nolensville, had previously owned pets, but the loss of one of their furry babies prompted them to adopt again during the pandemic.

“We’ve always had animals, so we missed them,” says Marida. “It took you away from all the other issues going on and you must have something fun to do.”

Neither the Stearns nor the Williams had difficulty acclimating their pets to a more open atmosphere, although Ro Ro shows a lot of enthusiasm for welcoming Williams to the house.

“When I’m here, she’s usually in the same room as me,” he explains. “But I’ve also been out of town since I got it. She really loves having me here. She knows when she hears gravel that I am coming and she will wait at the back door.

But it hasn’t been easy for many pets who have no “real world” experience.

Therapy for all

Real estate agent Thomas Williams visited the Catio Nashville several times before choosing Ro Ro. “I wanted to make sure she liked me and that we bonded.”

– Photo by Michelle Morrow | The ledger

Dr. Beth Strickler is a Certified Veterinary Behaviorist practicing in Nashville. She is one of less than 100 veterinarians in the United States certified in this relatively new field. She has seen a spike in pets – especially dogs – in need of help.

“The biggest problem we’re seeing is with what we call pandemic puppies,” she says. “While everyone was in quarantine, some of these dogs didn’t know anything about the world. For many of them, we were seeing an increase in fears and anxiety that we didn’t usually see.

“Some of these dogs and cats haven’t seen their families leave for a year. They don’t have the skills to be alone. We see some of them really struggling.

For these pets, separation anxiety is very real.

“The dog has a panic attack when people are gone,” says Strickler. “It usually starts within 30 minutes of the person leaving. Some of the manifestations of this panic may include urinating or defecating around the house, destroying furniture, and scratching doors.

She says there are two main issues with pandemic animals – staying indoors and going out.

“We still see very unstable animals when their owners are gone,” she adds. “Some of them need medicine. Some just need the skills to know how to be alone. Some of these animals don’t know what to do with themselves because they have been entertained by their families. We are trying to educate. What will your pet’s day be like when you’re not around?

“The other issue is with these pets that haven’t been exposed to the outside world and we’re seeing a variety of things. Animals don’t know how to navigate the outside world. We have seen some pets that are afraid to go out.

Ro Ro was one of the many pets adopted over the past year. Nationally, adoptions have increased by 15%.

– Photo by Michelle Morrow | The ledger

Kym Iffert, director of animal care and programs for Crossroads Pets Shop & Adopt in Nashville, has encountered similar issues. “If they didn’t get that early socialization, they’ll get nervous and anxious when they’re immersed in new things,” she says. “Dogs find ways to be entertained. It can destroy the sofa or scratch the doors.

New pet owners may find their pets’ difficult behavior intimidating, but Strickler, Iffert, and Celina Batlle, president of the Tennessee SPCA, have some heartwarming advice.

In fact, one. Coaching.

“I always make sure that dog training helps owners understand dogs better,” Batlle says. The SPCA has a trainer who visits the owner’s home to train the organization’s adopted dogs. It’s not free. The return rate of animals to the SPCA is 1%.

“Training is so important,” she says. “It’s like being a behaviorist.”

In Strickler’s practice, the owner and the animal are seen together. “We have to have a relationship with both the person and the pet,” she says. “We bring the family members and the pet. We put together videos and a detailed information form. We really teach owners how to teach pets using medical intervention to reduce worry. “

Iffert, who is a certified trainer herself, points out that pet owners should do their homework before hiring a trainer. “There are some amazing dog trainers and people with behavior, and some who are not so great.

“Be sure to check it out. It’s always good to make sure that if you are working on behavioral issues, you find the right people with the right qualifications.

Other costs

Now that workers are returning to the office, there are other considerations around taking care of a pet and some of them can get expensive.

Some other costs to consider when you return to work:

If you don’t want to leave Fido alone all day, dog walkers are the way to go. At Nashville Dog Walkers, you can opt for $ 21 for a weekday visit, $ 26 for a night or weekend visit, and $ 38 for two visits per day. Walkers have a scanning system so you know when they arrive and when they leave. They will even send a photo and an update.

Most pet owners need to take their pets on board when they go on vacation. Typically the cost hovers around $ 40 to $ 50 a night, and some have fairly luxurious amenities. Camp Bow Wow in Nashville offers comfortable individual cabins and an evening campfire for their four-legged guests. My Second Home in Franklin also has dog cabins that can also be fitted with a flat screen TV and a custom upholstered bed.

For the best food and treats for your pet, trust your vet’s recommendations.

If you’re worried about the cost of emergency veterinary services or serious illness, you might want to consider pet insurance. ValuePenguin surveyed the top 11 pet insurance companies and found that the average cost per month was around $ 50 for dogs and $ 29 for cats for policies that cover both illness and accidents.

When Tom and Marida Stearns adopted Baxter, they were already well aware of the costs of keeping a pet. “It’s like having a baby,” Tom admits. “Everything is encompassing. He took over our lives, but in a good way.

“It’s a huge investment of time, energy and money. It is not something to be taken lightly. And that may come as a surprise to new pet owners during COVID. “

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