CORONAVIRUS

A furry distraction: People adding pets to their family during stressful time

The Glessner family of Cedar Rapids just added Tonks, a 9-week-old goldendoodle to their crew. (Glessner family)
The Glessner family of Cedar Rapids just added Tonks, a 9-week-old goldendoodle to their crew. (Glessner family)
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If you think you’ve been noticing more puppies in your Facebook feed these days, you aren’t imagining things.

While a pandemic spreads across the country, families are reflecting on their time spent social distancing as a prime time to get a dog.

Ingrid Glessner of Cedar Rapids and her family — including her husband and three kids — just added Tonks, a 9-week-old Goldendoodle, to their crew.

“We bought our girl from Kimberlee’s Kennels and they were amazing to work with, not to mention they delivered her, keeping us at home during this quarantine situation.”

Glessner said their family had been considering getting a dog at some point, but the current state of the world encouraged them to move forward now.

“We were definitely motivated by the extra time at home and also by our kids, who we knew would benefit from a calming anchor right now, like a sweet pup.”

That extra time is a motivator many.

Taylor Trimble and her boyfriend, Nate Lux, just added Blitz, an 11-week-old German shepherd, to their lives. The couple lives in Omaha but has currently returned to Eastern Iowa — where they are both originally from — so they aren’t quarantined in an apartment complex.

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“Nate and I planned on getting a puppy this summer. He is a graduate student and I am a middle school teacher, so summer is an ideal time to get a puppy and be able to potty train and spend lots of time together,” she said. “But when our schools shut down for the foreseeable future, we jumped on the opportunity to add a few months to that training period.”

New puppies definitely take plenty of training, but owners are finding those responsibilities as worthy distractions.

“I am awful at being bored so having the many added responsibilities of a new puppy has been a welcome task,” said Trimble. “Luckily Blitz enjoys multiple walks a day, lots of playtime, and snuggling up for a nap together. Even though I still have responsibilities at my job to facilitate e-learning for my students and Nate still has his full-course load (just online now), there are certainly many free hours to spend playing and training Blitz. Now is a wonderful time to get a dog. You’re never going to be more present (in mind and body) than now, so use this time to learn good behaviors and build a strong relationship with a new pet.”

Jennifer Lane, marketing and development director for Cedar Valley Humane Society in Cedar Rapids, agreed.

“Now is a great time to bond with your new pet. Extra time at home is the perfect time to work on establishing a schedule, potty training (if necessary), learning new tricks and giving them a lot of love. These animals are so grateful to be part of a new family, especially those that have been previously abandoned.”

Lane said they are seeing a bit of a decrease in adoptions at the humane society.

“It is a challenge to get animals adopted when people are being asked to practice social distancing,” she said. “On a normal day, people come into the shelter to visit with the animals, which allows them to see their personalities up close. Unfortunately during this time they are not able to do that. However, we are featuring animals that are available for adoption on our social media pages and website.”

She said the humane society wants to balance being responsible in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19 while still maintaining their mission.

While now closed to the public, Lane said adoptions are still possible.

“There are animals in our care that are waiting to find their forever home and until they do, we will continue to care for them,” she said. “There are animals that require medication on a daily basis and we will continue to provide it until they are adopted. Unfortunately, these animals will likely wait longer to find their forever home, which increases our cost in caring for them. Yes, we have had to change our process during this unusual time, but we are committed to finding each animal a loving and caring home.”

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Amanda Rushton, development director for Last Hope Animal Rescue in Cedar Rapids, said they have seen an increase in people looking to temporarily foster, which is not necessarily a need currently. Adoption inquiries have remained steady.

“We had an initial slow down but are now seeing a steady stream of applicants,” she said.

The adoption process remains unchanged, but adoption events, which were held each week to introduce dogs and cats to the public have been canceled.

“We are relying on social media and email to continue to network our available animals, which has so far had a very positive response.”

A recent post about a litter of puppies dumped in a ditch has gotten lots of attention. “The puppies came from one of our shelter partners in Missouri where the county sheriff picked up the strays,” she said. “They are not quite ready for adoption yet but will be in the coming weeks once they have their age appropriate vaccinations.”

Last Hope also has limited its volunteer schedules at the adoption center, working to limit the number of people in the building at any one time. With 40 or so animals in residence, Rushton said work must go on and they are still accepting donations.

Those who have welcomed new dogs in recent days, said they could not be happier.

“It is so nice to have the joy a new puppy brings to the home in a time when the rest of the world feels so heavy,” Trimble said.

Glessner said their puppy already feels like a therapy dog. “She is definitely a welcomed distraction to a newsfeed, and world, full of fear and judgment.”

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Kate Getty and her husband, Tim, along and their toddler son, just added Duncan, a 14-week-old goldendoodle to their family.

“We had planned before (the pandemic) on getting a dog, but it has been an extra blessing right now,” she said. “The joy is amazing! We have more laughs at home with a silly puppy and a funny 4-year-old playing together. Petting and cuddling him is so relaxing.”

New pet owners and local professionals urge others not to rush into things, however.

“I can’t tell people to not be impulsive,” joked Glessner. “But I would say to look closely at how COVID-19 has impacted your daily rhythms and ask yourselves if a dog would bring delight or dread to that.”

Rushton agreed. “For families considering adoption, be it a puppy, kitten or otherwise, we encourage you to do your research on the possible breed mix you are considering and understand if it will be a long term successful placement for your family when life and schedules return back to ‘normal.’”

“Definitely make sure you have the emotional bandwidth to devote to a new family member, whether you are bringing in a puppy or older dog as they will need time to settle into your family and lifestyle,” said Getty. “Our professional lives have been a bit hectic the last two weeks but we have been loving our fluff ball even though he added responsibility during a busy time.”

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

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All donations are tax-deductible.