Several weeks into the shelter-in-place due to the coronavirus pandemic, a few trends began to emerge in my Facebook feed: Friends announcing hilariously that they had not worn pants for several days. Friends who binged an entire Netflix series in a single day. Friends who had just discovered their love for baking homemade bread. And, a trend I never would have predicted (but maybe should have)—pandemic dogs. That is, people adopting a dog as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At least seven of my Facebook friends have adopted dogs in the last month. I am a huge dog lover, so the acquisition of a new pup does not go unnoticed on my feed. Usually I notice one, maybe two adoptions on my feed in any given month. But seven??
It makes sense though. When else will you be in the house with such unrelenting regularity? Puppies need a lot of time and attention. They’re almost as tiring and time-consuming as toddlers—their energy is inexhaustible, they keep you up all night, and they destroy things. If you’ve ever had a puppy, you know the time and patience required. Older dogs adopted from the shelter aren’t necessarily any less work. They often need extra support, love and some training as well. Well, what better time than now, when time is a luxury we sort of wish we didn’t have?
Which is exactly what Anna-May Jeffreys, a photographer in Bradenton, Florida, was thinking when her family adopted a dog a few weeks ago. “We’d been talking about getting another dog for quite a while,” she told Scary Mommy, “and when all this pandemic stuff hit, and they said we’d be doing virtual school for the rest of the year, I said why not just do it now, seeing as the kids and I are home?” A two-hour drive later, and they had added an adorable border collie pup to their family.
It’s not just having available time that motivates us, though. The deeper we get into the coronavirus pandemic, the more I think it’s starting to sink in that we are truly dealing with a collective trauma. Dogs are notorious joy-bringers and mental health supporters. I regularly refer to my little pup as my “therapy dog” because he never fails to make me smile, even on the worst days.
That was part of the reasoning behind why writer and mom of four Allison Slater Tate finally made the leap to get a dog. Her family had also been toying with the idea for some time, but with four kids, life just never stopped long enough to commit. Like Anna-May, it was when it was announced that the kids wouldn’t be returning to school this year that they decided now was the time. “He’s been therapy for all of us,” Allison said, “from the 2nd grader who was so excited to share him on her weekly class video chat during show-and-tell to my high school senior, who has lost everything this spring and could use a little shot of joy sometimes.”
For Mary Widdicks, an author living in Illinois with her three young children, getting a dog was just as much about her own mental health as anyone else’s. “Rescuing an animal was my way of empowering myself to make something better during an uncertain and chaotic time,” she said of her rescue, Peanut. “I struggle with anxiety and depression, especially when I feel out of control. I may have saved his life, but I think he probably saved mine, too.”
Basically, the pandemic, and the shelter-in-place resulting from it, has provided every reason a person needs to finally get that dog they’d been dreaming about. Plenty of available time, a need for something worthy to commit themselves to, and a craving for closeness and connection.
I frequently say things like “Dogs are the best creatures” or “Dogs are better than humans.” I really mean this. Besides that period in late puppyhood when they literally try to eat your walls, there really isn’t much bad that can be said about dogs. They are loyal to a fault, playful, loving, snuggly, and incapable of holding a grudge. For that reason, I actually encourage anyone considering getting a dog right now to first think very carefully about going through with it. If it isn’t something you’ve already been thinking about, if you haven’t extensively researched dog ownership enough to fully understand the commitment involved, if once shelter-in-place is lifted you’ll no longer have time for the animal, don’t do it.
They may not be able to hold a grudge, but a dog is absolutely able to have its heart broken. Do not bring a dog into your family unless you are fully committed to the months and months of work it takes to train that dog to be a respectful member of the family. It’s a metric shit-ton of time and effort to raise a dog up from puppyhood, and often as much (sometimes more) work to rehabilitate a rescue, and I promise you a dog will destroy some of your stuff. Possibly a lot of your stuff. Puppies bite and you have to train them not to. No matter how many toys you buy it, a dog will chew the legs of your dead Aunt Mabel’s treasured antique dining table. It will piss and shit on your carpet and possibly infest your house with fleas (it recently took me two months to finally rid my house of a flea problem. My dog is eight and we’d never had fleas before. What. A. Nightmare.)
But all of the bad parts of owning a dog can (most often) be mitigated, and with the proper training most dogs will eventually learn to be very good boys and girls. Still, please don’t go out and get a dog unless you are one-hundred percent prepared for the work involved in managing the various inevitable catastrophes of owning one. And, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not bring one of these sweet, innocent creatures into your home and let him fall in love with you, only to give him away and leave him wondering what he did wrong to make you abandon him. Just. Don’t.
I think pandemic dogs are a fantastic trend, and I’m fully in support of adding family members of the canine variety. Just make sure before you do it that you’re truly up for the challenge.